Polar Bears facing extinction? “The numbers tell a different story.” – Foundation for Economic Education

October 18, 2020 6:50 pm - by - Climate


Is the Polar Bear Population Increasing?

From the FEE:

In 1984, the polar bear population was estimated at 25,000. In 2008, when polar bears were designated a protected species, The New York Times noted that number remained unchanged: “There are more than 25,000 bears in the Arctic, 15,500 of which roam within Canada’s territory.”

New estimates from the International Union for Conservation of Nature show a mid-point estimate of 26,500 (range: 22,000 to 31,000) in 2015. In The State of the Polar Report 2018, zoologist Susan J. Crockford says updates to IUCN data put the new global mid-point estimate at more than 30,000.

Even accepting the lower figure, the estimate is the highest since the polar bear became internationally protected in 1973.

Some in opposition to this claim argue that the Polar Bear population in the 1960’s is unknown. While that makes for a reasonable argument, would it not also nullify any arguments to the contrary? Such as, the claim that man-made climate-change has negatively impacted the Polar Bear population?

Polar Bears International:

Are polar bear populations increasing: in fact, booming?

Answered by Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, chief scientist with Polar Bears International and USGS polar bear project leader for 30 years.

Q: Why all the fuss about polar bears? Aren’t their populations increasing: in fact, booming?

A: One of the most frequent myths we hear about polar bears is that their numbers are increasing and have, in fact, more than doubled over the past thirty years. Tales about how many polar bears there used to be (with claims as low as 5,000 in the 1960s) are undocumented, but cited over and over again. Yet no one I know can come up with a legitimate source for these numbers.*


Society of Environmental Journalists:

Andrew Derocher of the University of Alberta added, “I have seen the figure of 5,000 in the 1960/70s but it is impossible to give it any scientific credibility. No estimation of any population was attempted until the early 1970s and even then, this was done very crudely for perhaps 10% of the global population and the estimates were highly questionable.”

Thor Larsen of Norway’s University of Life Sciences was actively involved in bear research back then. He recalls “Most data on numbers from the late 1960s and early 1970s were indeed anecdotal, simply because proper research was lacking. As far as I can remember, we did stick to a world-wide ‘guestimate’ of 20-25,000 bears in these years.”

Another veteran bear researcher, Ian Stirling, emailed me, “Any number given as an estimate of the total population at that time would simply have been a guess and, in all likelihood, 5,000 was almost certainly much too low.”



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