Polar bear maternity denning in the Beaufort Sea

Journal of Wildlife Management
By:  and 



The distribution of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) is circumpolar in the Northern Hemisphere, but known locations of maternal dens are concentrated in relatively few, widely scattered locations. Denning is either uncommon or unknown within gaps. To understand effects of industrial development and propose increases in hunting, the temporal and spatial distribution of denning in the Beaufort Sea must be known. We caputred and radiocollared polar bears between 1981 and 1991 and determined tht denning in the Beaufort Sea region was sufficient to account for the estimated population there. Of 90 dens, 48 were on drifting pack ice, 38 on land, and 4 on land-fast ice. The portions of dens on land was higher (P = 0.029) in later compared with earlier years of the study. Bears denning on pack ice drifting as far as 997 km (x = 385 km) while in dens. there was no difference in cub production by bears denning on land and pack ice (P = 0.66). Mean entry and exit dates were 11 November and 5 April for land dens and 22 November and 26 March for pack-ice dens. Female polar bears captured in the Beaufort Sea appeared to be isolated from those caught east of Cape Bathurst in Canada. Of 35 polar bears that denned along the mainland coast of Alaska and Canada 80% denned between 137°00′W and 146°59′W. Bears followed to >1 den did not reuse sites and consecutive dens were 20-1,304 km apart. However radio-collared bears are largely faithful to substrate (pack-ice, land, and land-fast ice) and the general geographic area of previous dens. Bears denning on land may be vunerable to human activities such as hunting and industrial development. However, predictable denning chronology and lack of site fidelity indicate that many potential impacts on denning polar bears could be mitigated.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Polar bear maternity denning in the Beaufort Sea
Series title Journal of Wildlife Management
DOI 10.2307/3809542
Volume 58
Issue 1
Year Published 1994
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Alaska Biological Science Center
Description 10 p.
First page 1
Last page 10
Country Canada, United States
State Alaska
Other Geospatial Beaufort Sea
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