Tracking polar bears from space

Rapid melting and habitat loss in the Arctic has wildlife conservationists anxious to keep track of animal populations in the High North, but the remoteness of the region makes routine monitoring difficult. Satellites offer a possible solution—but how well can they distinguish, for example, polar bears from other animals? Quite well, found scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey. The researchers used satellite imagery to track the distribution and abundance of the bears during the ice-free late summer of 2012 in Nunavut, Canada, and their population estimates in several locations matched closely with an aerial survey of the populations. That success suggests satellite images could help track other large animals, too, such as muskoxen and caribou.

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