Tracking polar bears in Beaufort Sea | WWF

Tracking polar bears in Beaufort Sea

Posted on
08 August 2007
Anchorage, Alaska – WWF has donated five satellite collars to the US Geological Survey (USGS) Alaska Science Center. The collars will be used for studies to fill key information gaps on how polar bears utilize sea ice during different times of year.

The USGS has been following a sample of female bears in the Beaufort Sea region – north of Canada and Alaska – since 1985 to help understand movements and habitat use.

With the additional collars, the USGS team expect to learn more about polar bear use of sea ice, selection of ice type, and examine habitat needs both on ice and along the shore.

The research will focus particularly on understanding habitat relationships and developing models of seasonal polar bear distribution relative to sea ice extent and composition. This information will provide science for conservation efforts and help scientists and managers better understand the effects of global-scale events including habitat loss and climate change.

While tagging and monitoring polar bears for the 2007 field season, the USGS research team noted that temperatures were unusually warm for spring (up to 0˚ C) and there was a near complete absence of multi-year ice along the shoreline.  

The decline of sea ice in this region is suspected to be the cause of decline in average body weight of some polar bears and an increase in cub mortality in recent years.

According to the World Conservation Union's (IUCN) Polar Bear Specialist Group, the southern Beaufort Sea sub-population is one of five — of the 19 sub-populations around the Arctic — that is in decline. Learn more about the status of polar bear sub-populations around the Arctic.

The WWF-Canon Polar Bear Tracker will soon be following the southern Beaufort Sea polar bears online at: www.panda.org/polarbears. You can currently follow the bears by downloading the Google Earth file at:  www.panda.org/polarbears/ge

For further information:
Margaret Williams, Director
Bering Sea Programme, WWF-US
E-mail: margaret.williams@wwfus.org

Miriam Geitz, Climate Change Officer
WWF International Arctic Programme
Tel: +47 22 03 65 00
E-mail: mgeitz@wwf.no
Polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea are showing signs of vulnerability, such as diminished size, which researchers suspect is climate related.
© Eric V. Regehr / USGS