A polar bear’s point of view

The first video of life on Arctic sea ice from a polar bear point of view has been released by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The agency released a clip recorded by a camera attached to the collar of a female polar bear without cubs in the Beaufort Sea north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. The necks of polar bear males are wider than their heads and collars slide off.

The clip shows the bear pursuing a seal under water, dunking a frozen seal into seawater and interacting with a male who might be a suitor.

The cameras are part of a study to find out how polar bears, listed as a threatened species, are responding to sea ice loss from global warming. Scientists in the Beaufort are generally limited to about six weeks of field work each spring, between the time it’s light enough to work and before ice begins to break up.

“It’s all information that we wouldn’t be able to get otherwise,” said Todd Atwood, research leader for the USGS Polar Bear Research Program, from his office in Anchorage.

The collars were attached in April and collected eight to 10 days later as a test run of how they eventually will be deployed for longer periods. Cameras were attached to two bears in 2013, but the batteries could not handle Arctic temperatures, Atwood said.

Atwood said the 38 to 40 hours of video from the neck cameras have yielded surprises — such as the female bear and a male tussling with a seal carcass in what might be courting behavior.

“The fact that they appear to be playing around with their food, we’re not sure what that means,” he said.

Other footage shows a bear pursuing a seal underwater. Polar bear hunting behavior generally is thought to consist largely of waiting beside a breathing hole or collapsing lairs of ringed seals.

The female at one point drops a frozen seal carcass in seawater and scientists speculate she’s trying to thaw it out, Atwood said.

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Reported by DAN JOLING of the Associated Press from ANCHORAGE, Alaska.

Online:

USGS polar bear point-of-view video: http://bit.ly/SgU3OV

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