East Greenland (EG)

Unknown population size and trend. Studies are on-going.

Status table outtake

Size Sea ice metrics Human-caused removals 2010–2014
Estimate /
95% CI
Year Method Change in spring ice retreat / Change in fall ice advance (days per decade) Change in summer sea ice area (percent change per decade) 5-yr mean Last year
Potential Actual Potential Actual
Unknown  -6.2/5.5-6.562636465
See also the complete table (all subpopulations)

Comments, vulnerabilities and concerns

Current and projected habitat decline, no abundance estimate or growth rate. TEK suggests increase in numbers (meeting with hunters in 2011 both in Ittoqqortoormiit and Tasiilaq).

No subpopulation inventories have ever been conducted. Assessment of this sub-population starts in 2015 with TEK interviews and satellite telemery.

Status and delineation

East Greenland subpopulation mapThe East Greenland area. See also the complete map (all subpopulations).

Satellite-telemetry data show that polar bears range widely along the coast of eastern Greenland and in the pack ice in the Greenland Sea and Fram Strait (Born et al. 1997, 2009; Wiig et al. 2003; Laidre et al. 2012, 2015). Various studies have shown that there are resident groups in the region (Born 1995, Dietz et al. 2000, Sandell et al. 2001), and the East Greenland subpopulation (EG) is thought to have limited exchange with other subpopulations (Wiig 1995, Born et al. 2009). Although there is little evidence of genetic difference between subpopulations in the eastern Greenland and Svalbard-Franz Josef Land regions (Paetkau et al. 1999), satellite telemetry and movement of marked animals have detected minimal exchange between polar bears in EG and the Barents Sea subpopulation (BS) (Wiig 1995; Born et al. 1997, 2009; Wiig et al. 2003; Laidre et al. 2012). The polar bears in EG cluster with the Eastern Polar Basin genetic cluster, one of 4 global genetic clusters of polar bears (Peacock et al. 2015). Laidre et al. (2015) showed that due to multi-decadal sea ice loss within East Greenland, there have been changes in bears’ habitat use between the 1990s and 2000s. Adult females tracked in the 2000s used areas with significantly lower sea ice concentrations (10-15% lower) than adult females in the 1990s during winter. They were also located significantly closer (100-150 km) to open water in all seasons and spent approximately 2 months longer in areas with <60% sea ice concentration than bears in the 1990s. No inventories have been conducted to determine the size of the polar bear subpopulation in EG, however pilot studies were initiated in southeast Greenland in 2015 to collect data to inform an assessment (Laidre, unpubl data).


Born, E.W. 1995. Research on polar bears in Greenland, ultimo 1988 to primo 1993 Pp. 105-107 In Wiig, Ø., Born E. W. and Garner G. W., (eds.). Polar Bears: Proceedings of the Eleventh Working Meeting of the IUCN/SSC Polar Bear Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Born, E.W., Wiig, Ø. and Thomassen, J. 1997. Seasonal and annual movements of radiocollared polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in northeast Greenland. J. Mar. Syst.10:67-77.

Born, E.W., Dietz, R., Wiig Ø., Aars, J. and Andersen, M. 2009. Polar bear Ursus maritimus. Pp. 91-100. In Boertmann, D., Mosbech, A., Schiedek, D. and Johansen, K. (eds.). The western Greenland Sea. A preliminary strategic environmental impact assessment of hydrocarbon activities in the KANUMAS East area. – NERI Technical report no. 719.

Dietz, R., Rigét, F.F. and Born, E.W. 2000. Geographical differences of zinc, cadmium, mercury and selenium in polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from Greenland. Sci. Total Envir. 245: 25-48.

Laidre, K.L., Born, E.W., Gurarie, E., Wiig, O., Dietz, R. and Stern, H. 2012. Females roam while males patrol: divergence in breeding season movements of pack ice polar bears (Ursus maritimus). Proceedings of the Royal Society B 280: 1-10.

Laidre, K. L., E. W. Born, P. Heagerty, Ø. Wiig, R. Dietz, H. Stern, J. Aars, M. Andersen. 2015.  Shifts in habitat use by female polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in East Greenland. Polar Biology 38: 879-893. doi: 10.1007/s00300-015-1648-5.

Peacock, E., Sonsthagen, S.A., Obbard, M.E., Boltunov, A., Regehr, E.V., Ovsyanikov, N., Aars, J., Atkinson, S.N., Sage, G.K., Hope, A.G., Zeyl, E., Bachmann, L., Ehrich, D., Scribner, K.T., Amstrup, S.C., Belikov, S., Born, E., Derocher, A.E., Stirling, I., Taylor, M.K., Wiig, Ø., Paetkau, D., and Talbot, S.L. 2015. Implications of the circumpolar genetic structure of polar bears for their conservation in a rapidly warming Arctic. Plos One 10: e112021.

Sandell, H., Sandell, B., Born, E.W., Dietz, R., and Sonne-Hansen, C. 2001. Polar bears in eastern Greenland: An interview survey about the occurrence of polar bears and the hunt, 1999. Technical Report No. 40, Greenland Nature Institute, 94 pp.

Wiig,Ø. 1995. Distribution of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in the Svalbard area. J. Zool., Lond. 237: 515-529.

Wiig, Ø., Born, E.W., and Pedersen, L.T. 2003. Movements of female polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in the East Greenland pack ice. Polar Biology 26:509-516.