U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Polar Bear Hunting and Handicrafting

Before Hunting

Who may harvest sea otters in Alaska
Alaska Native peoples who reside in Alaska and dwell on the coast may harvest polar bears for subsistence and handicraft purposes.

 

During the Hunt

Where you can hunt
The Marine Mammal Protection Act does not limit the areas in Alaska where polar bears may be harvested. However, there may be some areas with hunting or access restrictions, such as national parks or private land. Also, because some areas may have state or local ordinances limiting where firearms can be discharged, it is advisable to find out beforehand whether hunting is allowed by the land owner.

Managing Polar Bear Harvest
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Tribes and Alaska Native organizations to better understand and jointly manage the harvest of polar bears. This effort is being facilitated by the Indigenous People's Council for Marine Mammals (IPCoMM), together with tribal leaders, the North Slope Borough, and Kawerak, Inc.
Important questions we hope to answer include: 1) what are the most effective ways to communicate real-time information to hunters on the number of bears that have been harvested within a season; 2) what are the quickest and easiest ways for hunters to report their harvest; and 3) what are the most important qualifications for a co- management partner to represent you as an Alaska Native subsistence hunter? If you have ideas or thoughts, please call the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Marine Mammal Program at (907) 786-3800 or 1-800-362-5148.

Both the voluntary Inuvialuit-Inupiat Polar Bear Management Agreement and the U.S. – Russia Polar Bear Bilateral Agreement recognize the importance of conserving female polar bears with their cubs and therefore prohibit their harvest.

Polar bear walks in the snow. Credit: Steven Amstrup/USGS

 

After the Hunt

Tag your Polar Bear
Hunters must have their polar bear hide and skull tagged by a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service-hired tagger within 30 days of harvest. There are one or more taggers in most coastal villages, national wildlife refuge offices, and in Anchorage. The tags must stay on the skull and hide for as long as practical during the handicrafting process. Tagging is a management tool which gives biologists information about the animals and where they are being taken. To find the closest tagger or to get answers about tagging contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Marking, Tagging and Reporting program by:

Selling Polar Bear Parts

Selling to Alaska Native Peoples
Unaltered polar bear hides and skulls may be sold or traded to other qualifying Alaska Native peoples (50 CFR Part 18.3 Definitions), or to a registered agent for resale to other qualifying Alaska Native peoples.

Selling to Non- Alaska Native Peoples
Polar bear hides and skulls must be significantly altered into an authentic Native handicraft, by an Alaska Native person, in order for them to be sold to non- Alaska Native peoples.

Authentic Native Handicrafts
Alaska Native artisans are not limited in their use of polar bear hides or skulls or other parts in the creation of handicrafts. However, the items must be significantly altered in order to be considered Authentic Native handicrafts and enter into commercial sale.

Transporting Polar Bear Parts or Products across International Boundaries

Polar bears are listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Because of this status, a CITES Export Permit may be required to travel outside of the United States with handicrafts or other items that contain polar bear fur or parts. Because some countries may not allow polar bear handicrafts without CITES documents it is best to contact the U. S. Fish & Wildlife import/export office in Anchorage at (907) 271-6198.

Additionally, because of restrictions under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, while personal items or handicrafts may be exported the commercial export of handicrafts that contain polar bear fur or other polar bear parts are not allowed.

For more information: