Polar Bear Management and Research


Polar bears are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in cooperation with the Alaska Nanuuq Commission and the North Slope Borough. Since polar bears in the Bering and Chukchi seas region travel between Alaska and Russia, a bilateral agreement with Russia for bear research, management, and conservation exists. Similarly, Alaska Natives have also signed an agreement with the indigenous people of Canada regarding the hunting and management of the shared Southern Beaufort Sea sub-population of polar bears.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) conduct polar bear research in Alaska. A long term mark-recapture study in the Southern Beaufort Sea is underway to determine population size, productivity, and how polar bears are responding to their changing environment. USGS and USFWS have also been monitoring the fall distribution of polar bears annually along Alaska’s Beaufort Sea coast using aerial surveys. USFWS and USGS also study polar bears in the Chukchi Sea to try to determine the status and trends of bears in that region.

ADF&G and the USFWS–Marine Mammals Management Office are collaborating on a project to evaluate the feasibility of 3 methods to detect polar bear dens in the Beaufort Sea. For more information see Cooperative Maternal Polar Bear Den Detection Project.

For more information on USFWS polar bear research, see the USFWS Polar Bear Research in Alaska (PDF file).