PORTLAND, Ore. December 21, 2010. "When I first picked up the cub, she was biting my hand," explains wildlife biologist Bruce Marcot. He was trying to calm the squirming cub while its sedated mother slept nearby.
In the snowy spring of 2009, Portland-based Marcot traveled with several colleagues onto the frozen Arctic Ocean north of Alaska to study and survey polar bear populations. From their base of operations at the settlements of Deadhorse, next to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, they ventured by small plane and helicopter over a wide area of the Beaufort Sea in a study to determine the bears' health and to learn the impact of warming Arctic temperatures on their population.
"From the helicopter, we located radio-collared polar bears by their signals. Then, swooping in like a cowboy after a bull, our lead scientist would dart the bear with a tranquilizer dart," explains Marcot. "We then landed, corralled any cubs, and made the sleeping mother comfortable on the sea ice while we studied her health, weighed her, took measurements, and changed her radio collar so she could be further tracked."
Marcot, a scientist at the Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station, is a co-author on the recently published paper about the impact of climate change on polar bears, in the journal Nature. He was invited to be a member of the study team because of his expertise in the analysis and modeling of wildlife population viability. The study's lead scientist, Steven Amstrup, of the U.S. Geological Survey's Alaska Science Center, had asked Marcot several years earlier to join a polar bear science team organized to advise the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That team examined and analyzed global polar bear populations, habitats, and climate change. They presented their results in 2007
before several federal agencies and the U.S. Department of the Interior, in Washington, D.C., and in 2008 the Federal government designated the polar bear as a globally threa
|Contact: Sherri Richardson Dodge|
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station