It appears that the male polar bear with a too-tight satellite radio collar that was photographed late last year near Kaktovik on the North Slope of Alaska has been captured and his faulty collar removed, says a statement posted on the University of Alberta website 25 August 2016. The animal was reported to be healthy and behaving normally.
As far as I can tell, no press release was issued and no media interviews have been conducted despite the strong interest in the fate of this bear last fall (previous reports here, here, and here) – I found the notice by accident while looking for something else.
Andrew Derocher and his research team from U of A have admitted they collared this bear and the Polar Bear Facts webpage where this recent statement appears was developed to deal with the many inquiries about the status of this bear (dubbed “Andy” by some).
Note the statement, copied below, does not confirm that this is indeed the same bear as was photographed last year – they just assume it is. No photo is provided of the rescued bear, although clearly some were taken. However, if it is not the same bear, then another subadult male spent the winter of 2015-2016 on the ice of the Beaufort Sea with a tight and non-functioning collar that was not about to fall off by itself.
Update August 25, 2016 [my bold]
On August 10, 2016, the US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) and US Geological Survey (USGS) received a report of a collared polar bear near Kaktovik, Alaska. A team was immediately deployed to assess the situation and obtained photographs suggesting this was possibly the collared male observed near the same location in autumn 2015. Staff from the USFWS, USGS, Environment and Climate Change Canada, North Slope Borough, a veterinarian, and members of the Kaktovik community were then assembled and caught the bear on August 22, 2016.
The collar was removed and minor abrasions and localized skin irritation were noted. The veterinarian deemed the bear to be healthy and not in any distress. The bear recovered quickly from sedation and was released at the capture site. The animal was observed later feeding at the bowhead whale bone pile 4-5 hours after being immobilized, and was behaving normally.
On examination, the collar was found to have lost the transmission components and only the inner band of material remained. The aluminum nuts had fully corroded and small plastic washers were keeping the collar on the bear. The programmed release apparatus had not functioned properly. The manufacturer of the release has been apprised of the situation.
The University of Alberta remains fully committed to upholding the highest standards of animal care and welfare in accordance with the Canadian Council on Animal Care. Polar bear research at the University of Alberta follows these standards. Our research focuses on the conservation of polar bears and thus, we strive to ensure no injuries occur to study animals.
The bear in question was collared as a subadult and following the failure of the release mechanisms to function properly, researchers at the University of Alberta will not collar subadult polar bears in the future.
Previous entry, same page:
Update July 28, 2016
No reports of the collared bear have been received by any of the agencies in the Beaufort Sea region or researchers at the University of Alberta. Reports from near Kaktovik, Alaska (location of the last sighting of the collared bear) are that 20-30 polar bears are in the general area. Strong site fidelity to summering areas and the attraction provided by the remains of subsistence harvested bowhead whales result in a large number of bears on land along the Alaskan coast each year. Few bears in the Southern Beaufort Sea populations summer on land or in Canada. Reports are that one adult female, with a telemetry collar, accompanied by a yearling, was signed near Kaktovik. This adult female has not been identified using the satellite collar (the collar is believed to be working). This collared bear is thought to have been collared by U.S. Geological Survey researchers in Alaska.
The University of Alberta remains fully committed to upholding the highest standards of animal care and welfare in accordance with the Canadian Council on Animal Care, which is “the national peer-review organization for setting, maintaining, and overseeing the implementation of high standards for animal ethics and care in science throughout Canada.” Should the collared bear be sighted, a plan is in place with the appropriate agencies to undertake the required actions to remove the collar.