Polar bear population
How many polar bears are there?
- International: Vulnerable
- Canada: Special Concern
- Greenland / Denmark: Vulnerable
- Norway: Vulnerable
- Russia: Indeterminate, Rare, or Recovering, depending on population
- United States: Threatened
Timeline of polar bear conservation
Polar bears are an integral part of the Arctic ecosystem and the food web for Indigenous Peoples -- who have hunted polar bears sustainably for millennia. But, beginning in the 1700s, large-scale hunting by European, Russian and North American hunters and trappers took place, raising concerns about the future survival of polar bears. Unregulated commercial and recreational hunting continued until the 1970s.
Canada, the United States, Denmark, Norway and the former USSR signed the International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears and their Habitat, strictly regulating commercial hunting.
The US Government classified the Polar Bear under its Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The polar bear was upgraded from Least Concern to Vulnerable by the the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group.
Ministers and other leaders from the five polar bear range states met in Moscow for the first International Forum on Polar Bear Conservation. The leaders made significant commitments to address issues of polar bear habitat, research and trade. This event was supported by WWF.
Today, polar bears are among the few large carnivores that are still found in roughly their original habitat and range--and in some places, in roughly their natural numbers.
Although most of the world's 19 populations have returned to healthy numbers, there are differences between them. Some are stable, some seem to be increasing, and some are decreasing due to various pressures.
Status of the polar bear populations
Updated 2019 with data from the IUCN Polar Bear Specialists Group
- 4 populations are in decline
- 2 populations are increasing
- 5 populations are stable
- 8 populations are data-deficient (information missing or outdated)
In the future
By 2040, scientists predict that only a fringe of ice will remain in Northeast Canada and Northern Greenland when all other large areas of summer ice are gone. This "Last Ice Area" is likely to become important for polar bears and other life that depends on ice.
In October 2019, the Polar Bear Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) released a new assessment of polar bears. The findings reveal the most up-to-date information for polar bear populations.Read more
What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. The Arctic is warming faster than any other region on Earth, and the world is already feeling the effects.
WWF works with communities throughout the Arctic to help them deal with the effects of climate change, support research, and bring northern stories to a global audience.