The Secret Lives of Polar Bears

5/5/2011 12:40:00 PM

The Secret Lives of Polar Bears

Why do we collar polar bears? This amazing technology gives us new glimpses into the polar bear's life. While most of the bears are stay-at-home sorts, we've had a few take off on long journeys. One female caught on the Canadian side of the Beaufort Sea now makes her home on Russia's Wrangel Island. It's impossible to say if we caught her on a visit from Russia or if she emigrated, but insights like these add to our understanding of polar bear ecology.

Dr. Andrew Derocher measures a tranquilized bear

Over the next few years, my research group will be analyzing the data from the bears. With thousands of locations and hundreds of sea ice images to interpret, it's no small undertaking, but if we can better understand what the bears need, we can make clearer predictions of their future and provide critical input to managers.

A cub looks on as scientists study its mother

While the ice in 2011 was a surprise, it was one that didn't last very long. The dense ice cover was the result of wind from the northwest that kept it packed against the shore. As soon as the winds shifted, which they did just after we left, the ice disappeared and moved well offshore - back to where the bears can reside and thumb their noses at researchers until we head north again.

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