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Canada moves to protect polar bears

The majestic but vulnerable polar bear has been declared a "species of special concern" under Canada's Species at Risk Act.

That is one level below threatened and two levels below endangered under the act.

Environment Minister Peter Kent notes that Canada is home to two-thirds of the world's polar bear population.

The listing means a comprehensive management plan must be prepared within three years.

Polar bear populations have been increasingly threatened as global warming shrinks the Arctic icepack, restricting their traditional hunting range.

Environment Canada consulted with provincial and territorial governments, regional wildlife management boards, aboriginal peoples and other stakeholders before making the declaration.

It says the vast majority supported the listing.

A government statement says the management plan will build on its existing National Polar Bear Conservation Strategy, drafted in co-ordination with the United States, Russia, Norway, and Greenland.

The strategy aims to illustrate, strengthen and formalize Canada's existing polar bear conservation measures.

A Conservative senator recently proposed replacing the beaver with the polar bear as Canada's national animal.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.