Cameras stream Canadian polar bear migration

Oct 27, 2011 By MATT VOLZ , Associated Press

(AP) -- In the harsh, remote wilds of the Canadian tundra, a wolverine scampers up to a polar bear snoozing near the shore of the Hudson Bay. The bear rises and makes a half-hearted charge, driving away the fierce, badger-like animal.

The brief encounter Thursday was streamed live to computers around the world through a new program that aims to document in real time the annual migration of hundreds of polar bears outside Churchill, Manitoba.

The bears travel through the small town each October and November and then wait for the Hudson Bay freeze-up, when they can get out on the ice and hunt for seals. In the past, their trek was witnessed mainly by scientists and intrepid tourists.

Now, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Annenberg Foundation to set up four cameras on a makeshift lodge and a roaming Tundra Buggy, the bears' antics and actions at this way station can be viewed from anybody's living room through the foundation's website, http://www.explore.org .

"It brings the Arctic to the people," said Krista Wright, executive vice president of Polar Bears International, an based in Bozeman, Mont. "The polar bear is the North's iconic species. This is that exotic animal that people travel from all over the world to see."

There are 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears worldwide. The Western Hudson Bay polar bears, one of 19 subpopulations, are estimated to number between 600 and 800. Their gathering point near the former military town of Churchill makes them among the most accessible and studied group of bears in existence.

Their numbers are expected to grow over the next few weeks as the weather turns colder, culminating with the bay expected to freeze around the third week of November.

The Polar Bears International camp on the tundra is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) outside of town. Each September through November, they host scientists and hold webcasts for to give them a firsthand view of how is damaging the bears' habitat.

It's unseasonably warm in Manitoba, as evidenced on the webcam by the tundra bare of snow. That raises concerns that ice will be late in forming again this year - last year, freeze-up didn't happen until mid-December, nearly a month later than usual. That's a problem for the bears, Wright said.

"It's breaking up earlier and freezing later, so the time they're spending on land is longer. The time they're on land, they're basically fasting," she said.

Charles Annenberg Weingarten, the foundation's vice president and a trustee, said the polar bear webcam is an experiment he hopes to expand into a program called Pearls of the Planet that would place streaming cameras in various wild places.

Weingarten said a new feature will be added to the polar bear webcam soon that will allow viewers to document their observations of the on the website. The idea, he said is to encourage scientific learning, something like a Sesame Street for adults.

Explore further: 22 elephants poached in Mozambique in two weeks

More information:
http://explore.org

http://www.polarbearsfoundation.org

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Polar bears at risk from ice loss

Oct 14, 2005

Survival of the remaining polar bears is increasingly jeopardized by rapid disappearance of the arctic sea ice, conservation groups say.

Polar bear births could plummet with climate change

Feb 08, 2011

University of Alberta researchers Peter Molnar, Andrew Derocher and Mark Lewis studied the reproductive ecology of polar bears in Hudson Bay and have linked declining litter sizes with loss of sea ice.

Global Warming Reduces Polar Bear Survival

Nov 15, 2006

Researchers for the first time have shown a connection between global warming and decreased polar bear survival, says a University of Wyoming scientist.

Recommended for you

22 elephants poached in Mozambique in two weeks

3 hours ago

Poachers slaughtered 22 elephants in Mozambique in the first two weeks of September, environmentalists said Monday, warning that killing for ivory by organised syndicates was being carried out on an "industrialised" ...

Pakistan releases smuggled turtles into the wild

9 hours ago

Pakistani officials and environmentalists on Monday released some 200 rare turtles into the River Indus after the reptiles were retrieved from a southwestern Chinese town where they were seized by customs ...

Big science from small insects

14 hours ago

Anniversaries are often a time to look back. But after taking stock of the past, it can be just as important to look to the future.

Dwindling wind may tip predator-prey balance

Sep 19, 2014

Bent and tossed by the wind, a field of soybean plants presents a challenge for an Asian lady beetle on the hunt for aphids. But what if the air—and the soybeans—were still?

User comments : 0