Polar bears are the largest carnivores and a unique
symbol of the Arctic. Nineteen populations of polar bears are distributed
in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway, and Russia. The world wide population
is estimated to be 22,000-25,000 bears. Two populations occur in Alaska: the southern Beaufort Sea stock, shared
with Canada; and the Bering Chukchi/Seas stock, shared with the Russian Federation
In Alaska, the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) protects polar bears
by prohibiting "take" of polar bears. The MMPA provides for
specific exceptions to the prohibition on taking, including a provision
that allows Alaska Natives to hunt polar bears for subsistence and the
creation of handicrafts.
World wide, polar bear populations remain relatively stable; however,
climate change, contamination of the Arctic environment, potential over-harvest,
and increasing human development in polar bear habitat pose conservation
challenges for polar bears.
On May 15, 2008, the Service published a Final Rule in the Federal Register listing the polar bear as a threatened species throughout their global range under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This listing was based on the best available science, which shows that loss of sea ice threatens and will likely continue to threaten polar bear habitat. The Service is currently developing a Conservation/Recovery Plan for polar bears.
For more information, contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Marine Mammals Management office at 1-800-362-5148.
Last updated: November 1, 2011