Maternal Den Studies

Our maternal den study projects include:

  • A long-term study in Northern Alaska, which was led by Dr. Tom Smith of Brigham Young University from 2008-2017; plans for den research in 2018 and beyond currently being developed with partners in Alaska.
  • A second, ongoing project in Svalbard, Norway, started in 2016 in partnership with the Norwegian Polar Institute and San Diego Zoo Global.

The focus of this research is on the behavior of polar bear mothers and cubs as they emerge from their dens. Among the questions asked:

  • When do polar bears typically emerge from their dens with cubs?
  • How long do families hang around at the den site before heading to the sea ice to hunt seals?
  • How sensitive to disturbances are denning polar bears?

This research give us a broader picture of denning behavior—increasingly important information as human activity increases in the North and sea ice shrinks.

PBI wishes to thank Bering Time, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Utah’s Hogle Zoo, Hilcorp Alaska, and BP Alaska for supporting the Maternal Den Studies.