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ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT PROFILE

PROTECTION STATUS: Threatened

YEAR PLACED ON LIST: 2008

CRITICAL HABITAT: 187,000 square miles in Alaska designated in 2010; set aside in court in 2013

RECOVERY PLAN: None

RANGE: In and around the Arctic Ocean with southernmost occurrence at Canada’s James Bay; populations occur within jurisdictions of the United States ( Alaska), Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, and Russia

THREATS: Primarily melting of sea-ice habitat due to intensifying global warming, in combination with other threats including oil and gas development, environmental contaminants such as PCBs, industrial noise and harassment from increased Arctic shipping and other activities, and overhunting in some areas

POPULATION TREND: Polar bear numbers increased following the establishment of hunting regulations in the 1970s and today stand at 20,000 to 25,000 worldwide. The rapid decline of Arctic sea ice due to global warming has reversed this trend, and currently at least eight of the 19 polar bear populations, including both United States populations, are declining. Scientists estimate that if the Arctic continues its melting trend, the worldwide polar bear population will decline by two-thirds by 2050 and will be near extinction by the end of the century. As actual sea-ice melting has proceeded much faster than predicted by scientific models, population declines may occur much faster as well.

Photo © Thomas D. Mangelsen, ImagesOfNatureStock.com