GPS Tracks 9-day Polar Bear Swim

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A polar bear attached to a GPS tracker, swam for nine straight days before finding a piece of ice to rest on. Reports of long-distance swims are increasingly frequent, as shrinking ice leaves fewer resting stops for polar bears. These bears rely on Artic ice for rest stops, during their long hunting swims.

The GPS tracker was attached to Bear 20741 by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, University of Wyoming, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in order to learn more about polar bears and their long-distance swims in Artic waters.

This particular polar bear’s journey began just east of Barrow, Alaska and ended 426 miles across the Artic ocean at the Beaufort coast near Canada. The study was documented in the Polar Biology journal and reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The GPS tracker is also used to monitor how the polar bear’s body adapts to such a long swim in frigid waters. The bear reportedly lost over 100 pounds on her journey. Unfortunately, she also lost her yearling cub, which began the long journey with its mother, but perished along the way. The lead researcher in this case explains, “It was simply more energetically costly for the yearling than the adult to make this long distance swim.”

The shrinking Artic ice will continue to be an obstacle for polar bears for the foreseeable future. Exhaustion and starvation is taking its toll on the bears during their long swims, leading to drowning and even cannibalism. Unfortunately, these polar bears have no choice but to make such dangerous swims, as they are necessary for hunting and, therefore, survival.

GPS trackers are being used to study wildlife all over the world. The tracking devices are particularly helpful in studying animals in remote regions, such as parts of Alaska and the Artic. They also help scientist track and study migration patterns of animals, which they might not have otherwise been able to follow.

Article Written by Marisa O’Connor

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