Polar bear cams, attached to several of the mighty animals, have produced the first-of-its-kind video that is now available for viewing by the general public. The point-of-view camera is made possible by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Web cameras were attached to four female bears, living on sea ice north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, in April. Now, the agency is releasing the first images obtained by the system.
The cameras ran for eight days, recording the real-life actions of polar bears in the wild. This allowed researchers to study patterns of eating, sleeping, hunting and swimming that had never before been seen in a point-of-view format.
"The video, which is the first ever from a free-ranging polar bear on Arctic sea ice, shows an interaction with a potential mate, playing with food, and swimming at the water's surface and under the sea ice," USGS researchers wrote in the description of the video.
Anthony Pagano of the University of California Santa Cruz led the project to create the world's first polar bear cam of its type. This allowed the team access not available using other tracking methods.
"Scientists with the USGS have been studying polar bear movement and habitat use for decades using radio and satellite telemetry, mostly used to determine a polar bear's location. New video collars allow scientists to link the location data from the collar with the actual behavior recorded by the cameras," Pagano said.
Researchers tried to set up a similar polar bear cam in 2013, but cameras were unable to withstand the fierce Arctic temperatures, and failed during testing.
The polar bear cam was part of a project called the Changing Arctic Ecosystems Initiative. Researchers for the USGS are developing a Polar Bear Conservation Management Plan, which will work with the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, to better preserve the animals and their habitat.
By recording these videos and studying behavior of the bears, investigators from the USGS believe they will be better able to understand how these animals act on a large scale in their natural habitat. As global temperatures rise, climate change could affect these animals, the agency reported.
Polar bears are classified as an endangered species, due to the loss of sea ice habitat that is linked to global warming. The animal was first placed on that list in 1988.