Wildlife
© Deborah Albert

Polar bear

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.

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
    Ursus maritimus
  • weight
    352 - 680 kg
  • length
    2 - 3 m
  • population
    22,000 - 31,000 polar bears worldwide
  • status
    vulnerable

Follow in the footsteps of polar bears

With the help of polar bear researchers, WWF is following polar bears' travels in the Arctic.

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What WWF is doing for polar bears

WWF is working around the Arctic to secure a future for polar bears.

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How we work

Innovating in polar bear research

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.

Preventing polar bear conflict in Canada

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.

Preventing polar bear conflict in Greenland

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.

Preventing polar bear conflict in Russia

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.

Protecting polar bears across borders

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.

Reducing polar bear conflict in Alaska

Along the northern coast of Alaska, WWF supports several active polar bear patrols and education programs.

Reducing polar bear conflict on Svalbard,Norway

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.

Supporting polar bear research on Svalbard

WWF is supporting Norwegian scientists on Svalbard who are researching the local polar bear population.

Surveying polar bears in Western Hudson Bay

WWF supports polar bear surveys using an innovative mark-recapture technique that does not require tranquilising the bears.

Publications

The Circle 04.18
The Circle 04.18
1 October 2018
Polar Bear CAP Scorecard
Polar Bear CAP Scorecard
30 January 2018
Health effects in Arctic wildlife linked to chemical exposures
Health effects in Arctic wildlife linked to chemical exposures
1 June 2016
Factsheet: Keeping people and polar bears safe
Factsheet: Keeping people and polar bears safe
26 February 2016
Polar bears and climate change
Polar bears and climate change
1 December 2015
Impact of climate change on species
Impact of climate change on species
12 November 2015
See all 12 publications

Meet the team

WWF-Sweden

Senior Advisor, Arctic and marine

WWF-Denmark

Project Coordinator

WWF

Advisor, Nature Conservation – WWF Netherlands

WWF-US

Senior Program Officer, Arctic Wildlife

WWF-Canada

Senior specialist, Arctic species & ecosystems

WWF Arctic Coordinating Team

Senior Specialist, Arctic species

WWF

Unit Head, Forests & Wildlife – WWF-Netherlands

WWF-Russia

Coordinator, Arctic Biodiversity Conservation Projects

WWF-US

Managing Director, Species Conservation Program