Polar bear
© WWF / Clive Tesar

Polar Bear Tracker

Follow polar bears as we track them across the vast white desert of the Arctic Ocean.

With the help of polar bear researchers, WWF is following the bears' travels in the Arctic. Their positions are beamed from collars on the bears’ necks, via satellite to scientists, and then to this site. It allows us to get regular updates about how the polar bears behave in their Arctic environment and how they may be affected by climate change.

Why do we track polar bears?

This important work helps us to understand the impact that climate change, toxic pollution and other threats are having on different polar bear populations. An important part of polar bear research is understanding the movements of the bears, particularly in relation to sea ice.

To understand how they travel

From the data collected, scientists can determine when a female enters a den, when she emerges with cubs and how far she travels each day. They can also map a polar bear's range to determine whether individuals travel vast distances or remain strictly within their home range.

Over time this information reveals changes and adaptations. For example, in years when there is less sea ice, it will tell us where bears go and how they adapt.

To monitor health

When scientists fit a bear with a radio collar, they also collect important information about its health by:

  • measuring Its length and weight
  • taking samples of blood, fat, hair, and other tissues to identify any toxic contamination
  • estimating its age. Like the rings of a tree, the polar bear's teeth have thin layers of bone that show its age. Scientists pull a small tooth, located just behind the large canine teeth and of no use to the bear.

How do we track the bears?

Scientists observe the bears in their natural habitats and use radio collars to track their movements. The collar sends signals via satellite that are used to plot the bear's path.

Only female polar bears can be tracked using radio collars. Male polar bears have necks that are wider than their head, so the collars simply fall off.

Watch polar bear researchers in action:

The researchers