Polar bears range from Russia to the U.S. (Alaska), from Canada to Greenland, and onto Norway’s Svalbard archipelago—the five polar bear nations.

Biologists estimate there are 20,000 to 25,000 bears. About 60% of those live in Canada.

At the 2009 meeting of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group, scientists reported that of the19 populations of polar bears:

  • 8 are declining
  • 3 are stable
  • 1 is increasing
  • 7 have insufficient data

By comparison, in 2005:

  • 5 were declining
  • 5 were stable
  • 2 were increasing
  • 7 have insufficient data

In May 2008, the U.S listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. In Canada, polar bears are listed as a species of special concern. Russia also considers the polar bear a species of concern.

What’s happening? Today, scientists have concluded that the threat to polar bears is loss of their sea ice habitat in the Arctic from global warming. Polar bears depend on sea ice for hunting, breeding, and in some cases, denning. Summer ice loss in the Arctic now equals an area the size of Alaska, Texas, and the state of Washington combined.

Photos by: Nikolai Zinoviev (1, 5) | Marco Gaiotti (2, 6) | Dmytro Cherkasov (3) | Andy Rouse (4)

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