At the edge of a frozen lake in central Russia, a man with a backpack takes out his seal tape and begins to make a plan.
“If you have an opportunity to get in, it might save your life,” he says.
“We are not here to kill people.”
He is a polar bear scientist and, like most polar bears, lives in a group called the Polar Bears Project, which has been tracking the bears for decades.
But he has never set foot on a seal.
The bears, which can grow to about 1,500 pounds, are protected by a U.S. law that prohibits hunting or trapping of polar bears.
Since the late 1980s, when the bears were first listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the species has been in decline.
The last time the species was listed as endangered was in 1998, when it was considered nearly extinct in the wild.
Polar bears are listed as vulnerable under the federal Endangered Plant and Wildlife Act.
They are also protected under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which prohibits commercial fishing and harvests of the animals, which are a key food source for the endangered salmon fishery.
But the bears have never been listed as an endangered species.
The law says the bears are threatened by humans and other threats, but that the threat is not specific.
The Endangered Wildlife Act does not define a threat, but it says “it is important to note that the Act does provide for the consideration of threats, threats to the environment, and threats to individuals, including human life.”
“It’s important to realize that these are not threats, they are the natural resources of the planet,” says Steve Jones, a wildlife scientist with the nonprofit Alaska Wilderness League.
“This is an extremely unique and important area of wildlife.”
Jones says the polar bears have always been hunted, and that in the 1970s, a bear caught by a trapper in Montana was the last wild bear to be killed in the U.K. “The act is intended to help us protect the species and its habitat, and it’s important for people to understand that,” he said.
But in recent years, the bears, already facing a decline, have been spotted and killed by humans, and the numbers have risen, too.
In 2013, a seal killed and ate a bear that was tracking a trapping operation near a lake in northern Alaska.
The seal was trying to avoid a polar-bear population crash that would make them the biggest threat to the seals, says Jones.
In 2015, a polar grizzly bear was killed by a human who was hunting the bears in Alaska’s North Slope.
“It really is just an epidemic,” Jones says.
The species was not listed as Endangered under the ESA until a new law in 1997 gave the agency greater powers.
That law, the Magnusons-Stevenson Fishery Act, allows the U:assessment and management of marine protected species and the issuance of permits to harvest, kill, trap, fish, and take wild fish.
“Now, they’re under the same protections that the ESA was under before,” says Bill Stoltenberg, a senior scientist with WWF-Canada who has been working on the Endanger Species Act since its creation in 2000.
The new law requires that any marine protected animal be listed as “endangered” when there are threats to it or its habitat.
That designation means that the species is vulnerable to extinction.
In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Jones said that while the new law gives the agency more power to take action, the new definition does not include the species that bears have been known to hunt and eat.
“There are other species that are not listed under the act that have been hunted and killed and eaten,” Jones said.
Fish and Wildlife Service lists two polar bears as End of Watch: the Arctic fox, which is listed as a threatened species because of its relationship with polar bears and their prey, and Canada lynx, a species that hunts polar bears but is not listed by the ESA.
The agency is trying to determine whether the polar bear is a threatened or endangered species, and if so, how.
“I don’t think we’ll ever get there, but I’m hoping that we will,” Jones added.
“You know, I think this is going to be a problem for the entire species.”
The polar bears are protected under both the End of the World Endangered species Act and the Magnusonian-Stevenss Fishery Preservation Act, both of which require the agency to act to protect the remaining population of the bears.
The polar bear, once the most common predator in the Arctic, is in decline and has shrunk by about 80 percent since the mid-1990s.
The ESA lists two other polar bears: the blue whale, which was first sighted in the 1980s but has declined since then, and one that has been spotted in the Canadian Arctic since the