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It may be cute, but it’s far from cuddly. In fact, the polar bear is the APEX PREDATOR of the Arctic—the largest predator on land and capable of spending long periods in frigid waters and on sea ice. And, of course, it’s also the mascot of Bear Essential News.

After years since being listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the polar bear finally has its finished recovery plan, released last month by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In 2008, the polar bear became the first animal put on the list due to global warming as a result of a buildup of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Warmer winter temperatures in the Arctic have melted vast amounts of sea ice. This sea ice not only gives polar bears a place to get out of the sea and to den, but also provides its hunting grounds for seals and a place to find mates.

A Polar Bear Recovery Team worked on the plan.

The team is made up of federal and state scientists, Native groups in Alaska, the Canadian Wildlife Service and industry representatives from the oil and gas region of the state.

Two of 19 subpopulations of polar bears partly live in Alaska—the Chukchi Sea (which also includes part of Russia) and the Southern Beaufort Sea (which includes part of Canada) subpopulations. While we don’t have good population estimates for the Chukchi Sea population, the population size for Southern Beaufort has dropped at an alarming rate!

Some experts are disappointed in the recovery plan because it doesn’t attempt to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Fish and Wildlife explains that it has no power over such matters. Instead, the plan details the problems facing the polar bear and taking other steps to ensure that the bear populations remain healthy enough to bounce back when global warming ends. Such measures include continued monitoring, limiting “subsistence” polar bear hunting, keeping things like garbage secure so the bears aren’t attracted to where we live and reducing oil spills that damage their habitat

February 2017