Interaction between polar bears (Ursus maritimus) and people is a growing concern for both bear conservation and human safety in a warming Arctic climate. Consequently, the importance of monitoring temporal trends in the proximity of polar bears to people has become critical in managing human–polar bear conflicts. Such concerns are acute in Wapusk National Park in Manitoba, Canada on the western Hudson Bay coast, where we deployed 18 camera traps at three remote field camps from 2010 to 2014 (~22,100 camera days) to monitor the frequency and timing of bears’ visits to those facilities. Following seasonal breakup of Hudson Bay’s sea-ice polar bear occurrences at these camps increased throughout the summer and into fall (low in May–July and increasing sharply through August–November and then approaching zero in December when Hudson Bay freezes). We quantified age and sex class and estimated body condition of bears visiting the camps: adult males were most prevalent at Nester One camp close to where adult males congregate at Cape Churchill, whereas the two camps farther south were visited more frequently by females with dependent young, likely traveling to and from a known maternal denning area. Few sub-adults were observed. As expected, body condition scores declined throughout the on-shore season. Our method of monitoring polar bear occurrence on shore is robust, cost-effective, and non-invasive, and so may provide an economical complement to data gathered through more conventional techniques.
Polar Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 17, 2017
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