A day in the life of a polar bear, captured on film

Have you ever wondered what a polar bear sees in its day to day life?

Scientists have answered that question, by mounting GoPro cameras around the necks of the Arctic beasts.

It was part of a study published on Friday (NZ time) by the US Geological Survey. The researchers tracked nine female bears in the Beaufort Sea area to see how they fared in the harsh environment they call home.

The videos capture a polar bear's eye view of the world, showing them digging in the sea ice to lure their prey, and hunting and pouncing on seals, before devouring them.

But while the videos are a fascinating insight into creatures not often seen up close, the results of the study were grim.

They found four of the bears lost at least 10 percent of their body mass, while they were tracked for eight to 11 days, with the bears spending more energy hunting for their prey than they gained by eating them.

"As sea ice becomes increasingly short-lived annually, polar bears are likely to experience increasingly stressful conditions and higher mortality rates," lead author Anthony Pagano said.

"This was at the start of the period from April through July, when polar bears catch most of their prey and put on most of the body fat they need to sustain them throughout the year."

Polar bear walking on the ice in arctic landscape sniffing around.
Photo credit: Getty / File

Polar bears rely on sea ice to hunt their meals, devouring high-fat prey such as seals. But when the sea ice breaks up, their food source vanishes too.

Instead, they're forced to track down land-based food, with the study finding them foraging for goose eggs and digging through rubbish bins in far-flung towns.

Sea ice extent changes annually, melting and breaking up in the summer, before refreezing in the winter in a continuous cycle. But recently it's been thawing earlier in the summer, with last year seeing the second-lowest extent on record.

The polar bears then have to travel further to catch their prey.

A day in the life of a polar bear, captured on film
Photo credit: Getty / File

In a separate article published in the journal, biologist John Whiteman warned a warming climate, influenced by humans, is putting the great beasts at serious risk.

"Ice loss, if unabated, will eventually cause the extinction of polar bears in the wild," he said.

"But continued research is needed to understand the climate-related pressures that polar bears face."

The bears in the study, which was published in Science, were adult females without cubs. They were monitored with high-tech collars and tracked over the course of three years.

"We now have the technology to learn how they are moving on the ice, their activity patterns and their energy needs, so we can better understand the implications of these changes we are seeing in the sea ice," Mr Pagano said.


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