Are Polar Bears Endangered and How Many Are Left In the World?

Out of the eight bear species that still exist today, the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is the biggest and most aquatic. Regrettably, the polar bear is one of the six of these eight species that are currently threatened with extinction. Discover the estimated global population of polar bears, their present state of conservation, and the main dangers to their survival.

Population of Polar Bears Worldwide

The most current study from the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group in 2021 estimates that there are 26,000 wild polar bears worldwide (range: 22,000 to 31,000). Throughout its circumpolar range, this population is split into 19 different subpopulations.

Along with this wild population, there are perhaps 300 polar bears kept in captivity worldwide.

State of Global Conservation

As of right now, the polar bear is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List’s extinction scale. This is merely one step below Endangered in the threat hierarchy. A species classified as vulnerable has a high chance of going extinct in the wild if no action is taken.

Country-By-Country Conservation Status

Each of the five countries having polar bear populations also signed The Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears, a multilateral treaty that restricted polar bear hunting and commerce and coordinated research and conservation efforts, in 1973. This agreement was in addition to the global conservation listing. Additionally, the species can be found on the following national or regional conservation lists in every nation:

Special Concern (COSEWIC) in Canada

Denmark (Greenland): Vulnerable (IUCN European Red List)

Norway (Svalbard): Vulnerable (IUCN European Red List)

Russia: 3 subpopulations, listed as Category 3 (Rare), Category 4 (Indeterminate), and Category 5 (Recovering) (Red Data Book)

United States (Alaska): Endangered (Act to Protect Endangered Species)

Polar Bear Threats

The single greatest threat to polar bear populations globally, according to the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group, is the melting of Arctic sea ice as a result of climate change. Sea ice is essential to polar bear survival in the wild because it allows the bears to hunt, mate, and move. If sea ice is lost, the entire species faces extinction.

Apart from the primary hazard of diminishing sea ice, polar bears encounter multiple other difficulties. Increased commercial activity (oil and gas production, mining, shipping, etc.); human disputes; pollution; disease; poor habitat protection of denning locations; and overharvesting are among the other major conservation challenges.

In summary

There are presently 300 polar bears kept in captivity and another 26,000 in the wild worldwide. Polar bears are a globally and nationally threatened species. The primary factor for their continuous decrease is the melting of sea ice as a result of climate change.