POLAR BEARS- Field Studies

We’re listening to the sounds of a polar bear. Studying these animals in the Arctic has often given science more questions than answers. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

“Just in the past three or four years, we’ve been able to collect a very large amount of data on the movements of individual bears. And we’ve discovered that individual Polar Bears can move over an area about the size of the state of Texas. It’s an absolutely vast area. And presumably they’re doing that in order to locate seals and suitable areas for hunting. We would like to know how it is they do that. How is it they know where they are? How is it they know where they’re going? What are the cues they use to actually find the animals?”

Dr. Malcolm Ramsay is a professor of Biology at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.

“I’ve been working in one area in the high central Canadian Arctic where we’ve discovered regions that Ive been calling ‘singles’ bars.’ That is, all we find in a relatively small area are thousands and thousands of tracks of individual bears, and they’re only adult males and solitary females– that is, bears participating in mating activities. And it’s completely unknown to us. We had no idea that something like that might happen, and we don’t understand the dynamics. How do male and female Polar bears find each other? And what are the rules that they use to decide who’s going to mate with whom?

“My original interest in wanting to study polar bears was that they were living in such a simple ecosystem. I think I’ve been humbled over the years that the more I work with it, I find, the more complex it really seems to be. In fact, I often tell my students that after more than a decade of working with polar bears, I find I know less about them now than I felt I knew thirteen years ago when I started.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by The American Museum of Natural History. Additional Funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

POLAR BEARS- Field Studies

How do polar bears know where and when to congregate in "singles bars?"
Air Date:12/10/1998
Scientist:
Transcript:

We're listening to the sounds of a polar bear. Studying these animals in the Arctic has often given science more questions than answers. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

"Just in the past three or four years, we've been able to collect a very large amount of data on the movements of individual bears. And we've discovered that individual Polar Bears can move over an area about the size of the state of Texas. It's an absolutely vast area. And presumably they're doing that in order to locate seals and suitable areas for hunting. We would like to know how it is they do that. How is it they know where they are? How is it they know where they're going? What are the cues they use to actually find the animals?"

Dr. Malcolm Ramsay is a professor of Biology at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.

"I've been working in one area in the high central Canadian Arctic where we've discovered regions that Ive been calling 'singles' bars.' That is, all we find in a relatively small area are thousands and thousands of tracks of individual bears, and they're only adult males and solitary females-- that is, bears participating in mating activities. And it's completely unknown to us. We had no idea that something like that might happen, and we don't understand the dynamics. How do male and female Polar bears find each other? And what are the rules that they use to decide who's going to mate with whom?

"My original interest in wanting to study polar bears was that they were living in such a simple ecosystem. I think I've been humbled over the years that the more I work with it, I find, the more complex it really seems to be. In fact, I often tell my students that after more than a decade of working with polar bears, I find I know less about them now than I felt I knew thirteen years ago when I started."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by The American Museum of Natural History. Additional Funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.