Polar Biology

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 343–355 | Cite as

Home range distribution of polar bears in western Hudson Bay

  • Alysa G. McCallEmail author
  • Andrew E. Derocher
  • Nicholas J. Lunn
Original Paper


Sea ice in Hudson Bay is melting earlier and freezing later as the climate warms, resulting in declines in the condition, survival, and population size of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in the Western Hudson Bay population. The objective of this study was to analyse temporal variation in polar bear distribution on the sea ice in Hudson Bay to determine how home range size and location may be responding to changing sea ice conditions and to examine the current population boundary. Between 1990 and 2012, 153 satellite collars were deployed on 141 adult females yielding 67,495 usable locations. We examined annual minimum convex polygons and seasonal utilization distributions. Home ranges in the 1990s (mean = 264,356 ± 30,551 km2) did not differ significantly (t16 = −1.96, P = 0.07) from those in 2004 to 2012 (mean = 353,557 ± 33,719 km2). Home range distribution of individuals differed between seasons and across years, with most variation in the freeze-up and break-up seasons. Home range size was predicted by season, ice break-up date, and individual in a multiple regression, though R 2 was low. Solitary females had smaller home ranges and were closer to land compared to females with offspring. While on the sea ice, the population boundary often encompassed only half of the 2004–2012 polar bear locations and should be reassessed. The distribution of polar bears has shifted both annually and seasonally since 2004, but the consequences remain unclear as the system is extremely variable.


Polar bear Ursus maritimus Hudson Bay Distribution Climate change Sea ice 



Many pilots were involved in safely flying researchers and providing field assistance, but a special thanks to Hudson Bay Helicopters. We also thank the Churchill Northern Studies Centre for accommodation and field support. Funding and logistical support was provided by Aquarium du Québec, ArcticNet, Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Canadian Circumpolar Institute, Canadian Wildlife Federation, Care for the Wild International, Environment Canada, EnviroNorth, Hauser Bears, the Isdell Family Foundation, Manitoba Conservation, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Northern Science Training Program, Parks Canada, Polar Bears International, Quark Expeditions, the University of Alberta, W. Garfield Weston Foundation, Wildlife Media Inc., and World Wildlife Fund (Canada).


  1. Amstrup SC (2003) Polar bear. In: Feldhammer GA, Thompson BC, Chapman JA (eds) Wild mammals of North America: biology, management, and conservation. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, pp 587–610Google Scholar
  2. Amstrup SC, Gardner C (1994) Polar bear maternity denning in the Beaufort Sea. J Wildl Manage 58:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Amstrup SC, Durner GM, Stirling I, Lunn NJ, Messier F (2000) Movements and distribution of polar bears in the Beaufort Sea. Can J Zool 78:948–966CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Amstrup SC, Stirling I, Smith TS, Perham C, Thiemann GW (2006) Recent observations of intraspecific predation and cannibalism among polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea. Polar Biol 29:997–1002CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Andrewartha HG, Birch LC (1954) The distribution and abundance of animals. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  6. Blix AS, Lentfer JW (1979) Modes of thermal protection in polar bear cubs—at birth and on emergence from the den. Am J Physiol 236:R67–R74PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Bluhm BA, Gradinger R (2008) Regional variability in food availability for arctic marine mammals. Ecol Appl 18:S77–S96CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Brown JH (1984) On the relationship between abundance and distribution of species. Am Nat 124:255–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burek KA, Gulland FMD, O’Hara TM (2008) Effects of climate change on Arctic marine mammal health. Ecol Appl 18:S126–S134CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Calenge C (2006) The package adehabitat for the R software: a tool for the analysis of space and habitat use by animals. Ecol Model 197:516–519CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Castro de la Guardia L, Derocher AE, Myers PG, Terwisscha van Scheltinga AD, Lunn NJ (2013) Future sea ice conditions in western Hudson Bay and consequences for polar bears in the 21st century. Glob Change Biol 19:2675–2687CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chambellant M, Stirling I, Gough WA, Ferguson SH (2012) Temporal variations in Hudson Bay ringed seal (Phoca hispida) life-history parameters in relation to environment. J Mamm 93:267–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cherry SG, Derocher AE, Thiemann GW, Lunn NJ (2013) Migration phenology and seasonal fidelity of an Arctic marine predator in relation to sea ice dynamics. J Anim Ecol 82:912–921CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Comiso JC (2000, updated 2014) Bootstrap sea ice concentrations from Nimbus-7 SMMR and DMSP SSM/I-SSMIS. Version 2. [2004–2012]. NASA DAAC at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  15. Comiso JC (2002) A rapidly declining perennial sea ice cover in the Arctic. Geophys Res Lett 29:1956–1959CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Comiso JC (2003) Warming trends in the Arctic from clear sky satellite observations. J Clim 16:3498–3510CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Derocher AE, Stirling I (1990) Distribution of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) during the ice-free period in western Hudson Bay. Can J Zool 68:1395–1402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Derocher AE, Lunn NJ, Stirling I (2004) Polar bears in a warming climate. Integr Comp Biol 44:163–176Google Scholar
  19. Duong T (2011) ks: Kernel smoothing. R package version 1.8.1Google Scholar
  20. Ferguson SH, Taylor MK, Born EW, Rosing-Asvid A, Messier F (1998) Sea-ice landscape and spatial patterns of polar bears. J Biogeogr 25:1081–1092Google Scholar
  21. Ferguson SH, Taylor MK, Born EW, Rosing-Asvid A, Messier F (1999) Determinants of home range size for polar bears (Ursus maritimus). Ecol Lett 2:311–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ferguson SH, Stirling I, McLoughlin P (2005) Climate change and ringed seal (Phoca hispida) recruitment in Hudson Bay. Mar Mamm Sci 21:121–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Freitas C, Kovacs KM, Andersen M, Aars J, Sandven S, Mauritzen M, Pavlova O, Lydersen C (2012) Importance of fast ice and glacier fronts for female polar bears and their cubs during spring in Svalbard, Norway. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 447:289–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gagnon AS, Gough WA (2005) Trends in dates of ice freeze-up and breakup over Hudson Bay, Canada. Arctic 58:370–382Google Scholar
  25. Gitzen RA, Millspaugh JJ, Kernohan BJ (2006) Bandwidth selection for fixed-kernel analysis of animal utilization distributions. J Wildl Manage 70:1334–1344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gjertz I, Kovacs KM, Lydersen C, Wiig Ø (2000) Movements and diving of bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus) mothers and pups during lactation and post-weaning. Polar Biol 23:559–566CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gough WA, Allakhverdova T (1999) Limitations of using a coarse resolution model to assess the impact of climate change on sea ice in Hudson Bay. Can Geogr 43:415–422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gough WA, Cornwell AR, Tsuji LJS (2004) Trends in seasonal sea ice duration in southwestern Hudson Bay. Arctic 57:299–305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Grebmeier JM (2012) Shifting patterns of life in the Pacific Arctic and Sub-Arctic seas. Annu Rev Mar Sci 4:63–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hochheim KP, Barber DG (2010) Atmospheric forcing of sea ice in Hudson Bay during the fall period, 1980–2005. J Geophys Res Oceans 115:C05009CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hochheim KP, Lukovich JV, Barber D (2011) Atmospheric forcing of sea ice in Hudson Bay during the spring period, 1980–2005. J Mar Syst 88:476–487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Holland MM, Bitz CM, Tremblay B (2006) Future abrupt reductions in the summer Arctic sea ice. Geophys Res Lett 33:L23503CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hovelsrud GK, McKenna M, Huntington HP (2008) Marine mammal harvests and other interactions with humans. Ecol Appl 18:S135–S147CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) (2013) Climate change 2013: the physical science basis. Working group I contribution to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  35. IUCN/SSC Polar Bear Specialist Group (2010) Polar bears: proceedings of the 15th working meeting of the IUCN/SSC Polar Bear Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  36. Joly S, Senneville S, Caya D, Saucier FJ (2010) Sensitivity of Hudson Bay sea ice and ocean climate to atmospheric temperature forcing. Clim Dyn 36:1835–1849CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Jones EP, Anderson JG (1994) Northern Hudson Bay and Foxe Basin: water masses, circulation and productivity. Atmos Ocean 32:361–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kingsley MCS, Stirling I, Calvert W (1985) The distribution and abundance of seals in the Canadian high Arctic, 1980–1982. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 42:1189–1210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Laidre KL, Stirling I, Lowry LF, Wiig Ø, Heide-Jorgensen MP, Ferguson SH (2008) Quantifying the sensitivity of Arctic marine mammals to climate-induced habitat change. Ecol Appl 18:S97–S125CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Lindsay RW, Zhang J (2005) The thinning of Arctic sea ice, 1988–2003: Have we passed a tipping point? J Clim 18:4879–4894CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lunn NJ, Stirling I, Andriashek D, Kolenosky GB (1997) Re-estimating the size of the polar bear population in western Hudson Bay. Arctic 50:234–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Markus MT, Stroeve JC, Miller J (2009) Recent changes in Arctic sea ice melt onset, freezeup, and melt season length. J Geophys Res Oceans 114:C12024CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Maslanik JA, Serreze MC, Barry RG (1996) Recent decreases in Arctic summer ice cover and linkages to atmospheric circulation anomalies. Geophys Res Lett 23:1677–1680CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Mauritzen M, Derocher AE, Wiig Ø (2001) Space-use strategies of female polar bears in a dynamic sea ice habitat. Can J Zool 79:1704–1713CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mauritzen M, Belikov SE, Boltunov AN, Derocher AE, Hansen E, Ims RA, Wiig Ø, Yoccoz N (2003) Functional responses in polar bear habitat selection. Oikos 100:112–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Maxwell JB (1986) A climate overview of the Canadian Inland Seas. In: Martini IP (ed) Canadian inland seas, Elsevier oceanography series 44. Elsevier Science, Amsterdam, pp 79–99Google Scholar
  47. Millspaugh JJ, Nielson RM, McDonald L, Marzluff JM, Gitzen RA, Rittenhouse CD, Hubbard MW, Sheriff SL (2006) Analysis of resource selection using utilization distributions. J Wildl Manage 70:384–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Molnár PK, Derocher AE, Thiemann GW, Lewis MA (2010) Predicting survival, reproduction and abundance of polar bears under climate change. Biol Conserv 143:1612–1622CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Molnár PK, Derocher AE, Klanjscek T, Lewis MA (2011) Predicting climate change impacts on polar bear litter size. Nat Commun 2:186CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Molnár PK, Derocher AE, Thiemann GW, Lewis MA (2014) Corrigendum to “Predicting survival, reproduction and abundance of polar bears under climate change” [Biol Conserv 143 (2010) 1612–1622]. Biol Conserv 177:230–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Obbard ME, Middel KR (2012) Bounding the Southern Hudson Bay polar bear subpopulation. Ursus 23:134–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Palmer MA, Arrigo KR, Mundy CJ, Ehn JK, Gosselin M, Barber DG, Martin J, Alou E, Roy S, Tremblay J-É (2011) Spatial and temporal variation of photosynthetic parameters in natural phytoplankton assemblages in the Beaufort Sea, Canadian Arctic. Polar Biol 34:1915–1928CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Parkinson CL (2000) Variability of Arctic sea ice: the view from space, an 18-year record. Arctic 53:341–358CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Parkinson CL, Cavalieri DJ (2002) A 21-year record of Arctic sea-ice extents and their regional, seasonal and monthly variability and trends. Ann Glaciol 34:441–446CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Parks EK, Derocher AE, Lunn NJ (2006) Seasonal and annual movement patterns of polar bears on the sea ice of Hudson Bay. Can J Zool 84:1281–1294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Parmesan C (2006) Ecological and evolutionary responses to recent climate change. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 37:637–669CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Parmesan C, Yohe G (2003) A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems. Nature 421:37–42CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Peacock E, Derocher AE, Lunn NJ, Obbard ME (2010) Polar bear ecology and management in Hudson Bay in the face of climate change. In: Ferguson SH, Loseto LL, Mallory ML (eds) A little less arctic: top predators in the world’s largest Northern Inland Sea, Hudson Bay. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 93–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Prinsenberg SJ (1988) Ice-cover and ice-ridge contributions to the freshwater contents of Hudson Bay and Foxe Basin. Arctic 41:6–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. R Development Core Team (2010) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  61. Ramsay MA, Andriashek D (1986) Long-distance route orientation of female polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in spring. J Zool 208:63–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Ramsay MA, Stirling I (1988) Reproductive biology and ecology of female polar bears (Ursus maritimus). J Zool 214:601–634CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Regehr EV, Lunn NJ, Amstrup SC, Stirling I (2007) Effects of earlier sea ice breakup on survival and population size of polar bears in Western Hudson Bay. J Wildl Manage 71:2673–2683CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Ricklefs RE, Konarzewski M, Daan S (1996) The relationship between basal metabolic rate and daily energy expenditure in birds and mammals. Am Nat 147:1047–1071CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Root TL, Price JT, Hall KR, Schneider S, Rosenzweig C, Pounds JA (2003) Fingerprints of global warming on wild animals and plants. Nature 421:57–60CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  66. Saucier FJ, Senneville S, Prisenberg S, Roy F, Smith G, Gachon P, Caya D, Laprise R (2004) Modelling the sea ice-ocean seasonal cycle in Hudson Bay, Foxe Basin, and Hudson Strait, Canada. Clim Dyn 23:303–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Serreze MC, Holland MM, Stroeve J (2007) Perspectives on the Arctic’s shrinking ice cover. Science 315:1533–1536CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Skinner WR, Jeffries RL, Carleton TJ, Rockwell RF, Abraham KF (1998) Prediction of reproductive success and failure in lesser snow geese based on early season climatic variables. Glob Chang Biol 4:3–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Smith TG (1980) Polar bear predation of ringed seals and bearded seals in the land-fast sea ice habitat. Can J Zool 58:2201–2209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ (2001) Biometry: the principles and practice of statistics in biological research, 3rd edn. W.H. Freeman and Company, NYGoogle Scholar
  71. SPSS Inc (2013) SPSS® for Windows. Version 21.0 [computer program]. SPSS Inc., ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  72. Stirling I, Archibald WR (1977) Aspect of predation of seals by polar bears. J Fish Res Board Can 34:1126–1129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Stirling I, Derocher AE (1993) Possible impacts of climatic warming on polar bears. Arctic 46:240–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Stirling I, Derocher AE (2012) Effects of climate warming on polar bears: a review of the evidence. Glob Chang Biol 18:2694–2706CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  75. Stirling I, Øritsland NA (1995) Relationships between estimates of ringed seal (Phoca hispida) and polar bear (Ursus maritimus) populations in the Canadian Arctic. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 52:2594–2612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Stirling I, Parkinson CL (2006) Possible effects of climate warming on selected populations of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in the Canadian arctic. Arctic 59:261–275Google Scholar
  77. Stirling I, Spencer C, Andriashek D (1989) Immobilization of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) with Telazol® in the Canadian Arctic. J Wildl Dis 25:159–168CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  78. Stirling I, Andriashek D, Calvert W (1993) Habitat preferences of polar bears in the western Canadian Arctic in late winter and spring. Polar Rec 29:13–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Stirling I, Lunn NJ, Iacozza J (1999) Long-term trends in the population ecology of polar bears in western Hudson Bay in relation to climatic change. Arctic 52:294–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Stirling I, Lunn NJ, Iacozza J, Elliott C, Obbard M (2004) Polar bear distribution and abundance on the southwestern Hudson Bay coast during open water season, in relation to population trends and annual ice patterns. Arctic 57:15–26Google Scholar
  81. Stroeve JC, Serreze MC, Fetterer F, Arbetter T, Meier W, Maslanik J, Knowles K (2005) Tracking the Arctic’s shrinking ice cover: another extreme September minimum in 2004. Geophys Res Lett 32:L04501CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Stroeve JC, Holland MM, Meier W, Scambos T, Serreze M (2007) Arctic sea ice decline: faster than forecast. Geophys Res Lett 34:L09501CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Taylor M, Larsen T, Schweinsburg RE (1985) Observations of intraspecific aggression and cannibalism in polar bears (Ursus maritimus). Arctic 38:303–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Thiemann GW, Iverson SJ, Stirling I (2008) Polar bear diets and Arctic marine food webs: insights from fatty acid analysis. Ecol Monogr 78:591–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Thomas CD, Lennon JJ (1999) Birds extend their ranges northwards. Nature 399:213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Thomas CD, Cameron A, Green RE et al (2004) Extinction risk from climate change. Nature 427:145–148CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  87. Towns L, Derocher AE, Stirling I, Lunn NJ, Hedman D (2009) Spatial and temporal patterns of problem polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba. Polar Biol 32:1529–1537CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Vinnikov KY, Robock A, Stouffer RJ, Walsh JE, Parkinson CL, Cavalieri DJ, Mitchell JFB, Garrett D, Zakharov VF (1999) Global warming and Northern Hemisphere sea ice extent. Science 286:1934–1937CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  89. Walsh JE (2008) Climate of the Arctic marine environment. Ecol Appl 18:S3–S22CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  90. Wang J, Mysak LA, Ingram RG (1994) A numerical simulation of sea ice cover in Hudson Bay. J Phys Oceangr 24:2515–2533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Worton BJ (1989) Kernel methods for estimating the utilization distribution in home-range studies. Ecology 70:164–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Zar J (1999) Biostatistical analysis, 4th edn. Prentice-Hall Inc., Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alysa G. McCall
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrew E. Derocher
    • 1
  • Nicholas J. Lunn
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Wildlife Research Division, Science and Technology BranchEnvironment CanadaEdmontonCanada

Personalised recommendations