The huge surge in the polar bear population over the last fifty years has been attributed to quotas in hunting. So it is not outlandish to think that hunting could be a factor in the one polar bear population that is declining. The media tends to attribute this decline to lack of sea ice as a hunting platform for polar bears but thanks to MattN and his blog comment we are reminded not to jump to conclusions. This is far from scientific but it does raise a point.
MattN (07:53:22) :
OK, this is real simple. The only one of the 15 identified populations of polar bears that I can find good numbers on that is *actually* declining is the WEstern Hudson population.
I will type this once, in allcaps for effect: THE WESTERN HUDSON POLAR BEARS ARE HUNTED AND RECENTLY HAD THE LIMIT ON THEIR HARVEST REDUCED.
As far as the Western Hudson polar bears, the numbers I have found say that there are currently estimated to be ~935 bears, and has been decreased by 22% in the last 17 years.
The math says: 17 years ago there would be 1198 bears (call it 1200, close enough)
1200-935= 265 fewer bears.
265/17 years = 15.5 fewer bears each year.
The quota for polar bear harvest in that area was recently reduced FROM 56 bears/YEAR!!!
What that tells me that WITHOUT HUNTING there would be (56-15.5)*17=688 more bears, or 57% more bears, despite decreasing ice levels.
The reduction in population of the Western Hudson polar bear population has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with ice.