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How to tag a polar bear

The Story

With its paw held in a snare, the polar bear can do little to avoid the sting of a tranquilizer dart. Before long the bear is immobile, yet still conscious, as field workers move in to weigh and measure it, draw a blood sample, tattoo it and remove a tooth to estimate its age. This data is valuable to biologists studying polar bears, and, as this 1972 CBC-TV special explains, the bears aren't hard to find as they cluster near Churchill, Man. to await freeze-up in Hudson Bay.

Medium: Television
Program: One Northern Summer
Broadcast Date: Feb. 2, 1972
Narrator: Alan Maitland
Duration: 5:51

Did You know?

• Polar bears hunt their main prey, the ringed seal, by waiting at breathing holes in the ice. As the seal surfaces to gasp for air, the bear takes a swipe with its heavy paw, simultaneously lifting the seal out and killing it instantly. The fat of the seal is the most important nutritional component, and the bear eats it first to prevent other bears, which have an excellent sense of smell, from getting it.

• Polar bears begin gathering near Churchill, Man., in October every year to wait for ice to form on Hudson Bay. Having spent the summer fasting, they tend to be very hungry. On Oct. 31, Halloween, townspeople set up patrols at the edge of town so that children can go trick-or-treating without fear of encountering a bear.

• In the early years of polar bear research, in the 1960s and '70s, field workers and biologists weighed them using an onerous method of dragging them onto a net, then lifting them using a hoist and attaching a scale. Experienced researchers can estimate a bear's weight by feeling the thick layer of fat under its skin and extrapolating from the bear's length and width.






Polar Bears: On Thin Ice more