Last updated October 10, 2018

Polar bear attacks on humans: Implications of a changing climate

  • States there have been few attempts to systematically collect, analyze, and interpret available information on human-polar bear conflicts across their range
  • Develops a database (Polar Bear-Human Information Management System [PBHIMS]) to facilitate the range-wide collection and analysis of human-polar bear conflict data
  • Populates the PBHIMS with data collected throughout the polar bear range, analyzes polar bear attacks on people, and finds that reported attacks have been extremely rare
  • Documents 73 attacks by wild polar bears from 1870–2014, distributed among the 5 polar bear Range States (Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia, and United States), which resulted in 20 human fatalities and 63 human injuries
  • Finds that nutritionally stressed adult male polar bears were the most likely to pose threats to human safety
  • Finds that attacks by adult females were rare, and most were attributed to defense of cubs
  • Judges that bears acted as a predator in most attacks, and that nearly all attacks involved ≤2 people
  • States that increased concern for both human and bear safety is warranted in light of predictions of increased numbers of nutritionally stressed bears spending longer amounts of time on land near people because of the loss of their sea ice habitat