[MARMAM] New Publication: Polar bear behavior near icebreaker operations in the Chukchi Sea, 1991

Frances Robertson frances.c.robertson at gmail.com
Wed Jun 15 11:40:57 PDT 2016

Dear Colleagues,

On behalf of my co-authors I am pleased to announce the following
publication in this month’s volume of Arctic.

*Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) behavior near icebreaker operations in the
Chukchi Sea, 1991. *

Mari A. Smultea, Jay Brueggeman, Frances Robertson, Dagmar Fertl, Cathy
Bacon, Richard A. Rowlett and Gregory A. Green.  (2016) Arctic, 69 (2): 177
– 184 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14430/arctic4566


Increasing interactions of polar bears (*Ursus maritimus*) with human
activity, combined with impacts of climate change, are of critical concern
for the conservation of the species. Our study quantifies and describes
initial reactions and behaviors of polar bears observed from an icebreaker
during summer 1991 at two exploratory drilling sites (near sites drilled in
2015) located in the Chukchi Sea 175 km and 312 km west of Barrow, Alaska.
Polar bear behavior was described using continuous sampling of six
predetermined focal group behavior states (walking, running, swimming,
resting, feeding or foraging, unknown) and six behavioral reaction events
(no reaction, walking away, running away, approaching, vigilance [i.e.,
watching], unknown). Forty-six bears in 34 groups were monitored from
the *Robert
LeMeur* (an Arctic Class 3 icebreaker) for periods of five minutes to 16.1
hours. Significantly more bear groups reacted to icebreaker presence (79%)
than not (21%), but no relationship was found between their reactions and
distance to or activity of the icebreaker. Reactions were generally brief;
vigilance was the most commonly observed reaction, followed by walking or
running away for short (< 5 minutes) periods and distances (< 500 m).
Eleven percent of bear groups approached the vessel. No significant
difference was found between reactions when cubs were present and those
when cubs were absent. Despite the limited sample sizes, these findings are
relevant to assessing potential impacts of resource development and
shipping activities on polar bears, especially given the sparsity of such
information in the face of growing human activity in the Arctic offshore
areas. Overall, climate change is leading to longer and more extensive
open-water seasons in the Arctic and therefore to increasing marine
traffic—more vessels (including icebreakers) for a longer time each year
over a wider area.

For those with access the paper is available at:

Otherwise please direct all requests for copies of the paper to Mari
Smultea mari at smulteasciences.com


Frances C. Robertson, PhD

*Marine Mammal Biologist*
Canada  (+1) 604 339 4967

frances.c.robertson at gmail.com
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