A report at CBC News (“Photo shows polar bear injured by tight radio collar,” Martin Zeilig, 28 October 2015) shows the bloodied neck of a
male Southern Beaufort Sea polar bear, taken near Kaktovik, Alaska, whose radio collar is too tight.
Researchers should not be putting collars on young animals and male bears – they know the problems! Who did the USGS have working for them that did not know this
– or couldn’t tell a male bear from a female? [see below] The other question is: how many more bears are in the same condition but out of sight on the sea ice – or dead due to their injuries? Don’t forget, this is a population that researchers claim is endangered because of climate change but which really declined recently due to thick spring ice in 2004-2006. [SJC – ambiguity fixed]
UPDATE 28 October 2015: 5:41 pm – in a comment under the CBC story, Churchill polar bear guide Kelsey Eliasson wrote (“4 hours ago”):
“This isn’t a he, it’s a she. Saw this bear during our trip, its a female with one cub.
Male polar bears are not radio collared.”
The statement in the CBC article that the bear with the collar is a male thus seems to be an error. That makes more sense but does not negate the suffering of the animal.
UPDATE 5 November 2015: 8:30 am – I just received an email from a reader who contacted USGS about this bear and with their permission, I have copied the response below (leaving out the USGS contact person’s details), my bold:
I do not believe USGS banded the bear. I have talked with staff at the USGS Alaska Science Center and found that the polar bear in the news was an adult male. The USGS scientists will band female polar bears, but not male bears. If you have questions, see this site. there is a link to the staff on the left. Click it and you will see a list with the project manager at the top. http://alaska.usgs.gov/science/biology/polar_bears/tracking.html
It may be that USGS is accepting the word of one of the experts quoted in the story [Vince Crichton] that the bear is a male and have denounced their involvement on that basis. Obviously, other polar bear researchers must be working in the area, and Geoff York statements (below) suggest a crew from University of Alberta, led by Andrew Derocher. But if Kelsey Eliasson is right that this is a female with a cub (see above update), it may indeed be a USGS bear, perhaps one who’s collar has stopped transmitting. The plot thickens.