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The use of sea ice habitat by female polar bears in the Beaufort Sea

January 1, 2003

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) depend on ice-covered seas to satisfy life history requirements. Modern threats to polar bears include oil spills in the marine environment and changes in ice composition resulting from climate change. Managers need practical models that explain the distribution of bears in order to assess the impacts of these threats. We used stepwise procedures to create resource selection models of habitat use for radio-collared female polar bears in the Beaufort Sea. Sea ice characteristics and ocean depths at known polar bear locations were compared to the same features at randomly selected locations. Models generated for each of four seasons confirmed complexities of habitat use by polar bears and their response to numerous factors. Bears preferred shallow water areas where ice concentrations were > 80 % and different ice types intersected. Variation among seasons was reflected mainly in differential selection of ice stages, floe sizes, and their interactions. Water depth, total ice concentration and distance to the nearest interface between different ice types were significant terms in models for most seasons. Variation in ice stage and form also appeared in three models, and several interaction effects were identified. Habitat selection by polar bears is likely related to prey abundance and availability. Use of habitats in shallow water possibly reflects higher productivity in those areas. Habitat use in close proximity to ice edges is probably related to greater access of prey in those habitats.

Publication Year 2003
Title The use of sea ice habitat by female polar bears in the Beaufort Sea
Authors George M. Durner, Steven C. Amstrup, Ryan M. Nielson, Trent McDonald
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Index ID 70187945
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center