Alaska’s polar bear populations are concentrated along its Arctic coastlines. In the winter, they are most common in the Kuskokwim Delta, St. Matthew Island, and at the southernmost portion of St. Lawrence Island. During the summer months, they migrate to the coastlines of the Arctic Ocean and the Chukchi Sea. There are two main polar bear populations in Alaska. The Chukchi population is found off in the western part of Alaska near the Wrangell Islands, and the Beaufort Sea population is located near Alaska’s North Slope.
Until the late 1940s, polar bears were hunted almost exclusively for subsistence by Inupiats and dogs teams, though from the late 1940s until 1972, sport hunting by others took place. The 1959 Statehood Act set up a program for polar bear management, and further conservation efforts, including the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, have limited polar bear hunts. Polar bear populations may be threatened by oil development and global warming.