Last April, US Geological Survey researchers collared four female polar bears north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Those collars were outfitted with small video cameras, and the USGS has just released the first videos they collected. They show a female eating, swimming, and socializing with a potential mate.
Despite the bear's unrepentent shaky-cam approach to filmmaking, it's an absolute privilege to see the first ever "point of view" footage of a polar bear in a place completely devoid of humans.
The USGS explains why they're collecting these videos:
The video collars were deployed as part of a new study to understand how polar bears are responding to sea ice loss from climate warming. The study, led by USGS research biologist and University of California Santa Cruz PhD student Anthony Pagano, is taking a close look at polar bear behaviors and energetics.
Scientists with the USGS have been studying polar bear movement and habitat use for decades using radio and satellite telemetry, mostly used to determine a polar bear's location. New video collars allow scientists to link the location data from the collar with the actual behavior recorded by the cameras.
Although these collars were only on for about 8-10 days, scientists can start to understand the activity patterns of polar bears, for example how often they eat, hunt, rest, walk, and swim and how these behaviors may be affected by sea ice conditions and other variables. Ultimately, this information will help scientists examine the energetic rates and nutritional demands of these animals and the potential effects of declining sea ice conditions," said Pagano.
The information about polar bear behavior that scientists learn from the videos will also help guide the US Fish and Wildlife Service craft its "Polar Bear Conservation Management Plan," as part of the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act.