Satellite radiotelemetry has provided great insights into the movements and behaviors of polar bears (Ursus maritimus). The diameter of the neck of adult male polar bears exceeds that of their head, however, and radio collars slip off. This has limited collection of movement information to that from radio-collared females. To overcome this difficulty and gather information about their movements, we surgically implanted satellite radio transmitters into 7 male polar bears during 1996 and 1997. We compared movements of implanted males with those of 104 adult females radio-collared between 1985 and 1995. Transmitters were implanted under the skin on the midline of the top of the neck and were equipped with percutaneous antennae. Implanted transmitters operated for up to 161 days providing 3217 satellite relocations. While transmitting, radios implanted in males provided a larger proportion of the highest quality category of position fixes than was obtained from radio-collared females. However, all implanted radios ceased transmitting before reaching their projected life-span. The abrupt termination of transmission from implanted radios suggested mechanical rather than electronic failure. Mean rates of short-term movement for males (1.18 km/h) were lower than for solitary females, females with cubs, and females with yearlings (1.70, 1.84, and 1.95 km/h, respectively). Net geographic movements from the beginning to the end of each month were comparable for males (mean = 135 km) and females (mean = 114, 152, and 168 km). Mean azimuths of these net movements also appeared to be similar. Monthly activity-area sizes for males (mean = 8541 km2) were comparable to those for females (mean = 3698, 9397, and 10 585 km2) during the time period of comparison. In contrast to the other movement measures, males traveled longer mean distances (387 km) each month than did females (217, 289, and 302 km). Movements of males, it appears, were more directed than those of females, but males confined their travels to similar-sized areas.
Additional publication details
Comparing movement patterns of satellite-tagged male and female polar bears