WWF’s polar bear coordinator, Geoff York, keeps up his field knowledge with trips out onto the ice to check on the condition of the bears. This year, he is keeping a daily blog of his experiences over two weeks. Keep visiting this blog for regular updates and live the life of a polar bear biologist.
By Geoff York
Second day of capture work and the good weather continues to hold, though high clouds are moving in from the west all day. George and I head out again and bring a new USGS biologist along for training. We fly east and near shore all morning, but turn up little but tracks of animals we cannot locate. We could still use some snow.
Just as we start to turn back from the Canadian border, we spot a female polar bear with two cubs of the year, often referred to as coys. We carefully position them for capture and quickly have them safely sedated. The mother bear and both cubs are in great condition, the weather is perfect, and the Brooks Range is in full view to the south. Family groups provide critical information on the reproductive rates and rearing success of wildlife populations and key indicators for population trends.
On the way back to Kaktovik for fuel, we spend some time searching the coastal bluffs for evidence of denning. Polar bears prefer high bank habitat along the coast that hold consistent snow drifts to dig their dens, and there are many bluff areas along the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Our plan pays off as we spy a polar bear female with two new cubs sunning themselves a few hundred yards from their maternal den. We make a quick mark of the den location on our GPS and quickly depart. We will try to revisit the site once the family has moved off to the sea ice. Understanding where polar bears den is critical to protecting these habitats and ensuring viable populations.
We refuel and spend the balance of the day further out to the NE. Once again we finally encounter a bear, this time a large solitary male, near the Canadian border. The darting goes smoothly and we are able to run through a routine processing operation. This bear weighs in
At 398 kg and would easily weigh an extra 200 kg in the fall. He has several new minor wounds on his face and neck, very common around breeding season both from sparring with other males and from interacting with females too.
WWF’s polar bear coordinator, Geoff York, keeps up his field knowledge with trips out onto the ice to check on the condition of the bears. This year, he is keeping a daily blog of his experiences over two weeks. Keep visiting this blog for regular updates, photos, and maybe some video too, and live the life of a polar bear biologist.