Original Paper

Polar Biology

, Volume 31, Issue 8, pp 905-911

First online:

Movements of two Svalbard polar bears recorded using geographical positioning system satellite transmitters

  • Magnus AndersenAffiliated withNorwegian Polar Institute Email author 
  • , Andrew E. DerocherAffiliated withNorwegian Polar InstituteDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta
  • , Øystein WiigAffiliated withNatural History Museum, University of Oslo
  • , Jon AarsAffiliated withNorwegian Polar Institute

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Until recently, studies on polar bear (Ursus maritimus) movements and space use have used data collected by satellite telemetry collars that provided positions infrequently (typically weekly) and with low precision (by Doppler Shift method). A new generation of transmitters incorporated into collars use the Global Positioning System (GPS) to provide highly accurate positions, and have the ability to provide many positions per day. We used data from two GPS collars fitted to female polar bears, that attempted to collect six positions per day (4-h apart) for 546 days (from April 2000 to September 2001) and 413 days (from April 2000 to May 2001) to estimate how estimated speed of movement and home range size increase with increasing number of data points. Using all the positions, we estimated that the bears moved a minimum of 14.3 and 15.8 km per day on average. The fractal dimension (D) of the movement pathways for the two bears were D = 1.28 and 1.31, respectively, indicating low tortousity of the movements. Their minimum estimated annual home range areas were 20,794 and 112,183 km2. Simulations showed that a commonly used sampling regime of one location every 6th day would have significantly underestimated the movement rates and the home range sizes compared to our estimates. We also used the high accuracy of GPS positions to look at distances moved within 4-h periods. Maximum movement rate during a 4-h period for the two bears was 4.21 and 4.58 km/h, respectively. Variation in median values by month was significant (0.01 km/h in November for N23476 to 1.48 km/h in December for N7955). Diurnal variation was observed to differ between defined periods.


Polar bear Satellite telemetry GPS-collar Movements Activity Svalbard