Polar Bears in Ontario

Male polar bear

Figure 1. Male polar bear. Photography: L.R. Walton.


Ontario is home to the southern-most population of polar bears in the world. Climate change is considered the greatest threat to the long-term survival of these bears. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and its partners are working together to help ensure the long-term survival of Ontario’s polar bears.


The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is Ontario’s largest carnivore (Figure 1) and is an important component of the Hudson and James Bay ecosystem of northern Ontario, northern Quebec and southern Nunavut. It’s also of significant cultural importance to Aboriginal communities. The continued presence of polar bears is a strong indicator of the health of this northern ecosystem.


Distribution of Southern Hudson Bay polar bears during the ice-free season
Figure 2. Distribution of Southern Hudson Bay polar bears during the ice-free season.

There are currently about 25,000 polar bears worldwide. Approximately 15,000 of these bears live in 13 subpopulations in Canada’s northern areas. Polar bears in Ontario are primarily from the Southern Hudson Bay sub-population, which includes polar bears in James Bay (Figure 2).

This sub-population is the most southerly breeding population of polar bears in the world.

This report provides information about the current status of Ontario’s polar bears, factors affecting them, and actions the Ontario government is taking to help maintain the health of polar bears in the longterm.








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This report is also available as a PDF.



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