AboutZoos, Since 2008


Through the eyes of a polar bear

pub­lished 08 June 2014 | mod­i­fied 08 June 2014

The first “point of view” video from a polar bear on Arc­tic sea ice has just become avail­able cour­tesy of the U.S. Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey (USGS). Sci­en­tists applied video cam­era col­lars to four female polar bears on the sea ice north of Prud­hoe Bay, Alaska this past April and are releas­ing the first clips of footage that pro­vide unique insight into the daily lives of the bears.

Polar bear arctic“We deployed two video cam­eras in 2013, but did not get any footage because the bat­ter­ies weren’t able to han­dle the Arc­tic tem­per­a­tures,” said Dr. Todd Atwood, research leader for the USGS Polar Bear Research Pro­gram. “We used dif­fer­ent cam­eras this year, and we are thrilled to see that the new cam­eras worked.”

The video col­lars were deployed as part of a new study to under­stand how polar bears are respond­ing to sea ice loss from cli­mate warm­ing. The study, led by USGS research biol­o­gist and Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Santa Cruz PhD stu­dent Anthony Pagano, is tak­ing a close look at polar bear behav­iours and energetics.

Sci­en­tists with the USGS have been study­ing polar bear move­ment and habi­tat use for decades using radio and satel­lite teleme­try, mostly used to deter­mine a polar bear’s loca­tion. New video col­lars allow sci­en­tists to link the loca­tion data from the col­lar with the actual behav­iour recorded by the cameras.

Ulti­mately, this infor­ma­tion will help sci­en­tists exam­ine the ener­getic rates and nutri­tional demands of these ani­mals and the poten­tial effects of declin­ing sea ice conditions
Anthony Pagano, USGS research biol­o­gist and Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Santa Cruz PhD student »

Although these col­lars were only on for about 810 days, sci­en­tists can start to under­stand the activ­ity pat­terns of polar bears, for exam­ple how often they eat, hunt, rest, walk, and swim and how these behav­iours may be affected by sea ice con­di­tions and other vari­ables,” said Pagano.

Polar Bear — Point of View cam­era record­ings in April 2014
This video was edited and com­piled from raw footage recorded by a cam­era equipped radio col­lar that was put on a female polar bear in the Beau­fort Sea dur­ing April 2014 by the US Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey. The video, which is the first ever from a free-​ranging polar bear on Arc­tic sea ice, shows an inter­ac­tion with a poten­tial mate, play­ing with food, and swim­ming at the water’s sur­face and under the sea ice. These videos will be used by the US Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey in research to under­stand polar bear behav­iour and ener­get­ics in an Arc­tic with declin­ing sea ice.

(Source: U.S. Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey (USGS) YouTube channel)

This ongo­ing research is part of the USGS Chang­ing Arc­tic Ecosys­tems Ini­tia­tive. This research is also rel­e­vant to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice Polar Bear Recov­ery Team of which the USGS is a mem­ber. The team is draft­ing the Polar Bear Con­ser­va­tion Man­age­ment Plan, which will meet require­ments of both the Endan­gered Species Act and Marine Mam­mal Pro­tec­tion Act in the U.S. The required plan, when finalised, will guide activ­i­ties for polar bear con­ser­va­tion in response to the 2008 deter­mi­na­tion that the polar bear is a threat­ened species due to the ongo­ing loss of sea ice habi­tat from global climate-​change.

(Source USGS news release, 06.06.2014)

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