5/11/2016 6:06:23 PM

Polar Bear Point of View Video

Bozeman, Montana (May 11, 2016) - A small video cam fitted on a collar has allowed scientists to peek into the life of a female polar bear on land, letting them follow along as she navigates Akimiski Island in James Bay, Canada.

Its purpose? To understand how polar bears in seasonal ice areas, where the sea ice melts away completely in the summer, spend their time and energy when forced ashore.

"New technology lets us actually see what the bears are seeing and learn what they are doing in places rarely accessed and at times of the year when it's hard to follow them," said Geoff York, senior director of conservation at Polar Bears International. 

"The footage is visually stunning, but it's also important from a research perspective. It provides unique insights into polar bear activity that will help scientists better understand and interpret the data received from bears without cameras."

Scientists plan to correlate the footage with data gathered by an accelerometer, which measures changes in motion. They will also calibrate it with movement and video data gathered from polar bears in zoos.

The project was a team effort involving Polar Bears International, the U.S. Geological Survey, explore.org, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, York University, San Diego Zoo Institute of Conservation Research, Mehdi Bakhtiari at Exeye (inventor and source of the cams), and Adam Ravetch at Arctic Bear Productions.

"We applied video cameras and accelerometers on three polar bears to examine the behaviors and energy demands of bears on land," said Anthony Pagano, research biologist with the USGS. "These tools will allow us to measure the number of calories the animals expend."

So far, scientists have analyzed data from one bear. Pagano said that, based on the video data from the bear, she spent 78 percent of her time resting, 8 percent eating berries, 4 percent walking, and 10 percent in various other behaviors, such as drinking or grooming. She was most active in the morning (7 a.m. to noon) and least active in the evening (5 p.m. to 8 p.m.).

The study complements an earlier USGS project that involved polar bears on the sea ice—one that included time swimming, hunting and catching seals, breeding, and resting. The data from the sea ice study will be compared with data from bears on land.

"These studies are providing us with greater insights into the behaviors and nutritional demands of these animals so we can better understand how polar bears are being affected by declines in sea ice," Pagano said.

Those few berries, for example? Tasty perhaps, but probably not worth the effort spent munching them.

Video footage for use with articles

Video highlights (4:20 minutes)

Long version (9:56 minutes)

About Polar Bears International
Polar Bears International is dedicated to conserving polar bears and the sea ice they depend on. Through media, science, and advocacy, we work to inspire people to care about the Arctic, the threats to its future, and the connection between this remote region and our global climate. 

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