Majestic creature of the far north, the polar bear is the world's largest terrestrial carnivore. Its Latin name, Ursus maritimus, means 'sea bear': an apt name for this amazing species which spends much of its life in, around, or on the water - predominantly on the sea ice.
The Arctic is changing. Can polar bears change with it?
The first time I saw a polar bear, I was doing field work in the Canadian Arctic. In fact, we were visited by six bears within 24 hours as the summer sea ice broke up and bears began moving to land. I felt fortunate that three Inuit researchers were in the camp with us.Read more
Why is the polar bear so important?
Large carnivores - those that are at the apex or top of the food chain - are particularly sensitive indicators of the health of an ecosystem. Polar bears help us gain an understanding of what is happening throughout the Arctic.
All recent indicators show that sea ice in the Arctic is melting at an alarming rate, a problem that needs to be addressed immediately if polar bears, and other species unique to the region, are to survive.
Polar bear facts
- scientific name
352 - 680 kg
2 - 3 m
22,000 - 31,000 polar bears worldwide
How we work
WWF's global work to reduce human-wildlife conflict is based in our Netherlands office.
WWF catalyzes innovation. From extracting DNA from snowy pawprints to supporting tests of infrared camera systems for counting polar bears, WWF works to increase efficiency, reliability, and cost effectiveness of Arctic research.
In the community of Arviat, WWF supports a polar bear patrol and pilot projects with food storage containers, solar-powered electric fencing and diversionary feeding stations.
Since 2015, Greenland’s first polar bear patrol has worked through the polar bear migration season to keep the community of Ittoqqortoormiit safe. Each morning the polar team patrols the community on ATVs, using deterrence measures to frighten bears away. WWF also guides the community and government on improving polar bear safety.
Since 2006, polar bear patrols have been operating with the support of WWF-Russia. The patrols conduct polar bear monitoring and research; and protect villages from polar bears and prevent human - wildlife conflict.
WWF addresses conservation of polar bears at the local, national, and international levels. We support community initiatives such as polar bear patrols and contribute to planning and implementing range-wide conservation plans.
Along the northern coast of Alaska, WWF supports several active polar bear patrols and education programs.
Svalbard is a hotspot for polar bear tourism - and conflict. The local government is working with organizations like WWF, scientists and the tourist sector to find the best methods for managing conflict.
WWF is supporting Norwegian scientists on Svalbard who are researching the local polar bear population.
WWF supports polar bear surveys using an innovative mark-recapture technique that does not require tranquilising the bears.
Meet the team
This predominantly Arctic species is associated with ice floes. Its movement patterns are therefore influenced by the melting and freezing of the ice. The bowhead has suffered from severe over-exploitation that has seen its range shrink considerably since the 17th century.
The narwhal is famous for the long ivory tusk which spirals counter-clockwise several feet forward from its upper lip. The tusk is actually the whale's upper left canine tooth. Male narwhals commonly have a single tusk, but they sometimes have two tusks, or none at all. Around 15% of females have a tusk.