The range includes the territory of five nations: Denmark (Greenland), Norway (Svalbard), Russia, the United States (Alaska) and Canada.These five nations are the signatories of the International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears, which mandates cooperation on research and conservation efforts throughout the polar bear's range.
Many attacks by brown bears are the result of surprising the animal, which is not the case with the polar bear.
While they are rare north of 88°, there is evidence that they range all the way across the Arctic, and as far south as James Bay in Canada.
Their southernmost range is near the boundary between the subarctic and humid continental climate zones.
The Polar Bear Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission takes the position that "estimates of subpopulation size or sustainable harvest levels should not be made solely on the basis of traditional ecological knowledge without supporting scientific studies." Its preferred habitat is the annual sea ice covering the waters over the continental shelf and the Arctic inter-island archipelagos.
These areas, known as the "Arctic ring of life", have high biological productivity in comparison to the deep waters of the high Arctic.