Attaching a monitoring collar to a polar bear is tough sufficient. However it’s all of the tougher as a result of finally researchers need to take away it, too. So Polar Bears Worldwide reached out to 3M to see if the corporate, identified for its experience in making issues stick, might provide you with a much less everlasting approach to tag the 1,000-pound (454-kilogram) carnivores in order that finally the trackers would fall off all on their very own.

Having to sedate a bear and be certain that its hungry relations aren’t round aren’t the one challenges concerned with tagging polar bears. Collars can solely be hooked up to feminine bears as a result of the necks on absolutely grown males are as large as their heads, upping the percentages they will simply shrug the collars off. Collaring adolescents males isn’t an choice both, as a result of polar bears develop too shortly and the collar might quickly find yourself changing into a choking hazard. Ear tags and implants are potential alternate options given how small GPS electronics have develop into, however the former is a everlasting answer, and the latter requires minor surgical procedure within the area. Because of this, many of the analysis round monitoring the actions and migration patterns of polar bears by their habitats are restricted to females.

To provide you with higher methods to tag polar bears within the wild, BJ Kirschhoffer, the director of area operations at Polar Bears Worldwide, reached out to his dad, Jon, who occurs to be a sophisticated analysis specialist at 3M’s Company Analysis Techniques Lab. If you happen to’ve ever used a Submit-It word or Scotch tape, then you understand that 3M focuses on making issues stick, typically briefly. So the senior Kirschhoffer began the “tag-a-bear” problem to encourage the corporate’s researchers to provide you with methods to securely stick tags and monitoring gadgets to polar bear fur.

Some of the tag prototypes use simple adhesives, while others use 3M’s Velcro-like fastener technology to securely hold onto an animal’s fur.

A number of the tag prototypes use easy adhesives, whereas others use 3M’s Velcro-like fastener expertise to securely maintain onto an animal’s fur.
Picture: 3M

Over the course of two years, a number of alternate options to collars, ear tags, and implants had been created. They had been finally narrowed right down to 4 prototypes which can be at the moment being examined on polar bears in northern Manitoba, Canada, and will probably be additional examined on bears in captivity in zoos and aquariums. A number of the options use approaches proper out of 3M’s customary playbook, together with a five-armed mount that makes use of adhesives to securely lure and maintain onto a polar bear’s fur, and an analogous design that makes use of a Velcro-like fastener system as an alternative the place two sections of every arm connect to one another whereas securely trapping and gripping a bear’s fur in-between. Had been considered one of these arms to return unfastened over time, there are 4 others that may function redundant backups.

One prototype uses off-the-shelf bottle brushes, entangling a polar bear’s fur in its plastic bristles.

One prototype makes use of off-the-shelf bottle brushes, entangling a polar bear’s fur in its plastic bristles.
Picture: 3M

One of many extra artistic options took inspiration from Mom Nature, particularly the best way vegetation use sticky burrs and animals to unfold their seeds. However as an alternative of tiny thorns or thistles, a mounting plate featured three channels the place water bottle brushes might be inserted and twisted to wind and entrap the bear’s fur within the plastic bristles. As soon as inserted and secured the lengthy wire handles of the bottle brushes are merely snipped off, leaving the highest bristled portion holding the tag in place.

Although they every take totally different approaches, what all 4 prototypes share is their means to proceed to work in sub-freezing temperatures, snow, and saltwater. They will even survive a roll within the tundra, as polar bears wont to do, with out dislodging. They can be utilized to adults—men and women—in addition to adolescents with none threat to the animal’s security or consolation, which implies researchers might glean a a lot richer understanding of polar bear habits. A number of the prototypes are anticipated to remain hooked up to a polar bear’s fur for greater than 9 months at a time, and those who don’t naturally fall off when a bear begins to molt might be simply eliminated with a haircut—however not sufficient to have an effect on the animal’s means to endure the chilly.

Making use of the tags nonetheless requires the animals to be sedated first, however finally, as the brand new tag options are deployed within the wild and improved over time, attaching a GPS tracker to a bear might be as straightforward as sticking a Submit-It word to your laptop display. Because it stands, having the ability to safely tag any dimension or form of bear within the wild will enhance the standard of the analysis knowledge that’s collected, permitting researchers to higher goal conservation methods because the the world warms and polar bear habitat and behavior is impacted (to say nothing of the affect oil and gas extraction is having). The trackers will even assist higher shield those who name the north residence permitting communities like Churchill, infamous for its native polar bear communities that like to go to, to higher shield residents and hold tabs on bears which can be shut sufficient to pose a risk.

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Andrew Liszewski on Earther, shared by Brian Kahn to Gizmodo