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Threats to the Survival of the Polar Bear

Threats to the Survival of the Polar Bear

The polar bear is officially classified as a "vulnerable" species. There are three principal threats to the ongoing survival of the Polar Bear:

Global Warming

Polar bears are highly reliant on the hunting of seals on sea ice as their primary source of food. As as result of global warming, increasing global temperatures are leading to the earlier melting of the peripheral arctic sea ice favored by the bears, driving them to migrate towards land or more Northerly ice earlier in the year without first building sufficient fat reserves to survive these less hospitable environments for long periods.


Like many species, polar bears are vulnerable to the effects of pollution. The most obvious exposure to pollution that polar bears face is through the arctic food chain, at the top of which they reside. Having experienced steadily increasing levels of pollution for decades, recent studies of polar bears now show a welcome reduction due in part to increased controls over the most harmful substances.


Until the second half of the twentieth century the hunting of polar bears played a significant part in the reduction of the population. However, since the 1950s agreements between the countries whose land and seas polar bears inhabit have placed controls over the number of bears that can legally be hunted. These steps have greatly reduced the effect of hunting on the future security of the species, but the World Conservation Union still believes there is a potential risk of over-harvest through legal and illegal hunting.

Other animals at risk

The polar bear's distant cousin the Giant Panda faces even graver threats to its survival. Find out more about Giant Panda conservation.