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Tracking polar bears by satellite - real-time data

Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags for grizzly and polar bear research

Polar bear with radio collar and RFID tag on the earGrizzly bears and polar bears are important species for subsistence communities along the Beaufort Sea coast for food, fur, and cultural significance. Much of our current knowledge about bear populations, habitat use, movements, and interactions with oil and gas activities on the Alaska northern coast (North Slope) has been the result of repeated captures of tagged individuals. Application of existing and emerging Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, currently used for military and commerce, has the potential to significantly increase the sample size of marked bears by decreasing the cost of recapturing bears. An RFID system contains two major components: tags and a reader. The goal is to adapt the RFID system and test its feasibility for wildlife research and management by modifying the tags so they can be attached to bear ears and by modifying the reader for use in aircraft and land vehicles. Testing the RFID system began with tag deployment in 2005 for the Oilfield Grizzly Bear Project. RFID tags were deployed on polar bears in spring 2006.

2007 Update
We continued our pilot study of Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) ear tags. RFID tags, if proven in the field, will allow relatively inexpensive remote identification of individual animals at ranges exceeding 1500 feet from either aerial platforms or the ground. Currently all non-collared bears have to be captured each season for positive identification. A total of 17 tags were deployed in spring 2007 (53 were deployed in 2006). Six bears tagged with RFID in 2006 were encountered in 2007 allowing some preliminary assessment of tag performance and persistence. Of the six bears encountered, three retained functioning RF tags (1 male and 2 females) and three bears had lost the RF tags (2 males and 1 female) Tags deployed in 2007 were considerably smaller than those deployed in 2006, which we hope will improve retention. The spring 2007 and future deployment of RFID tags will allow us to fully assess their utility in wildlife research.

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Page Last Modified: December 7, 2016