Arctic sea ice, the vital habitat of polar bears, has undergone basin-wide reductions in extent and thickness over the past few decades. Indices used to delineate pan-Arctic polar bear habitat suggest future sea ice declines will result in loss of “critical” habitat. To aid and refine local management decisions season-specific resource selection functions (RSF) were developed from satellite radio-telemetry locations of adult female polar bears and data from several sources including the European Space Agency’s environmental satellite (ENVISAT), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP), Operational Linescan System (OLS), NOAA’s Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), and the Canadian Space Agency’s RADARSAT. Results illustrate that polar bears preferred sea ice near the interface of land fast ice and pack ice (winter and spring) and for sea ice that allowed them to maximize use of (breakup) or return to (summer and freeze-up) shallow continental shelf waters.
Distribution of Resource Selection Function (RSF) values for polar bear habitat use within the bounds of the National Ice Center sea ice chart for the Beaufort Sea during winter, 1999 – 2009.