Andreas Weith - CC BY-SA 4.0

Bears face a number of serious threats, each originating from human beings. Only by changing human attitudes to bears and their habitats can we begin to address the threats they face at our hands. Follow the links below for more information on specific threats.

Mario Hoppmann / NASA - CC BY 2.0
West Virginia DNR

Climate change

The threat to polar bears of the shrinking winter ice-cap is pretty obvious.  But climate change also directly affects the other seven bear species.


Bears are illegally killed as trophies, for their pelts or body parts, because they are seen as a threat or nuisance.  Cubs are poached for use in bear bile farming, to be used as dancing bears or as pets.

Cameron Strandberg - CC BY 2.0
Yellowstone - NPS

Habitat loss and human-bear conflict

Destruction and fragmentation of bear habitat seriously increases the risks of confrontation between bears and humans. Usually there is only one winner; and it isn’t the bears.

Road & rail

Roads and railways are a source of both direct and indirect mortality for bears. Bears are killed in collisions but many more die because of the adverse, indirect effects of roads and railways.

Holger Gaisenbauer - GNU FDL
Doris A & Lawrence H Budner Theodore Roosevelt Collection, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Captive bears

Thousands of bears are kept in appalling, outdated zoos which are cruel prisons.  They are also exploited in roadside shows, circuses, bile farms and bear-baiting dogfights.


In this mixed-up world hunting is not always bad news for a bear species as a whole.  However, money talks and many bear hunts are unsustainable, and unregulated.

Page updated 16 February 2021