Canada has classified polar bears as a species of “special concern” requiring legislative protection, the BBC reports. While the panel of experts stopped short of declaring the bears endangered, it said that melting ice and hunting problems had put the bears in jeopardy. Canada is home to 15,000 bears, and the summer sea ice they prowl may be completely gone by 2014.
“Based on the best available information at hand, there was insufficient reason to think that the polar bear was at imminent risk of extinction,” said the panel’s chairman, explaining the decision to keep the bears off the endangered list. “That’s not to say that it’s not in trouble. A special concern species is a species at risk.” Canada’s environment minister must accept the report but needn't act on it immediately.