An on-ice aerial survey of the Kane Basin polar bear (Ursus maritimus) subpopulation

Øystein Wiig, Stephen N. Atkinson, Erik W. Born, Seth P Stapleton, Todd Arnold, Markus Dyck, Kristin L. Laidre, Nicholas J. Lunn, Eric V. Regehr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

There is an imminent need to collect information on distribution and abundance of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) to understand how they are affected by the ongoing decrease in Arctic sea ice. The Kane Basin (KB) subpopulation is a group of high-latitude polar bears that ranges between High Arctic Canada and NW Greenland around and north of the North Water polynya (NOW). We conducted a line transect distance sampling aerial survey of KB polar bears during 28 April–12 May 2014. A total of 4160 linear kilometers were flown in a helicopter over fast ice in the fjords and over offshore pack ice between 76° 50′ and 80° N′. Using a mark-recapture distance sampling protocol, the estimated abundance was 190 bears (95% lognormal CI: 87–411; CV 39%). This estimate is likely negatively biased to an unknown degree because the offshore sectors of the NOW with much open water were not surveyed because of logistical and safety reasons. Our study demonstrated that aerial surveys may be a feasible method for obtaining abundance estimates for small subpopulations of polar bears.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-100
Number of pages12
JournalPolar Biology
Volume45
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial, logistical, and in-kind support were provided by (alphabetical order): Applied Physics Laboratory (University of Washington), The Association of Greenland Hunters and Fishermen, KNAPK, Avannaa Resources Inc. (Copenhagen), Bureau of Mineral and Petroleum (Nuuk), the Danish Civil Aviation Authorities, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Environmental Protection Agency (Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark) DANCEA Program, Government of Nunavut, Greenland Department of the Environment, Greenland Department of Fisheries, Hunting and Agriculture, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources (GINR), the Iviq Hunters and Trappers Organization, Nuna Minerals Inc., Nunavut General Monitoring Program, Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, Polar Continental Shelf Project, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Universal Helicopters, University of Oslo, Vetlesen Foundation, and World Wildlife Fund. We thank H. Stern and B. Cohen for discussions of GIS issues, M. Akeeagok, P. Hegelund, J. Kigutak, J. Neely and V. Sahanatien, for their participation in the field work, and pilots J. Barry, J. Innes and S. Lodge for their safe and excellent flying. We thank B. Cohen for help with making Figure 1. We thank T. Marques, P. Frame and one anonymous reviewer as well as the Editor for their contribution to improvement of the manuscript.

Funding Information:
Open access funding provided by University of Oslo (incl Oslo University Hospital). Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, The Association of Greenland Hunters and Fishermen, Avannaa Resources Inc., Bureau of Mineral and Petroleum (Nuuk); Canada Department of National Defense, Danish Civil Aviation Authorities, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Government of Nunavut, Greenland Department of Fisheries, Hunting and Agriculture, Greenland Department of the Environment, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources (GINR); Iviq Hunters and Trappers Organization, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), NNX13AN28G, Kristin L. Laidre, NNX11A063G, Kristin L. Laidre, Nuna Minerals Inc., Nunavut General Monitoring Program, Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, Polar Continental Shelf Project, Qaanaap Kommunia, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Universal Helicopters, University of Oslo, Vetlesen Foundation, World Wildlife Fund

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

Keywords

  • Abundance
  • Aerial survey
  • Distance sampling
  • Kane Basin
  • North Water Polynya
  • Polar bear
  • Ursus maritimus

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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