Polar bears typically avoid people. But a warmer climate could make dangerous encounters more common.

Polar bear on land

Polar bears spend most of their lives out on thick slabs of sea ice hunting seals, so they rarely encounter or attack humans.

But since 2000, the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has dramatically declined. And scientists say it could disappear in summertime within 50 years.

The loss of ice means a shorter hunting season for polar bears, and therefore more time spent on land, closer to humans.

And hungry bears near Arctic communities could pose a threat to people.

WILDER: “One thing we did discover was that bears in poor body conditions are much more prone to attack people than are bears in good condition.”

That’s James Wilder. He’s a wildlife biologist and member of the Range States Human-Polar Bear Conflict Working Group. The group predicts the number of encounters between bears and humans will increase as the Arctic heats up and bears lose access to their preferred prey.

Thinning Arctic ice means more hungry polar bears - and more potential bear attacks. Click To Tweet

Polar bears are already hanging around villages more than before, so the group is researching strategies that will help people avoid conflicts. But Wilder says the most important way to protect both bears and people is to reduce global warming pollution.

Reporting credit: Justyna Bicz/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
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