Presentation Abstract

Title: Remote biopsy darting methods for sampling and marking polar bears from a helicopter.
Session Title: "New Technology and Applications, Ecology and Habitat Relationships of Mammals"
Session Number: 75
Session Time: Wednesday, Oct 17, 2012, 8:00 AM -12:00 PM
Presentation Time: Wednesday, Oct 17, 2012, 8:00 AM -12:00 PM
Presentation Number: 10
Author(s): Anthony M. Pagano, Elizabeth Peacock, U.S. Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK, Contact: apagano@usgs.gov
Abstract Body: Remote biopsy darting allows researchers to genetically identify individual animals without physical capture. Despite being less invasive and less time intensive than physical capture, biopsy darting is not commonly used in polar bear (Ursus maritimus) research. We identified deficiencies with the currently available biopsy darts for the purpose of sampling polar bears from a helicopter. We worked with 2 dart manufacturers to develop darts that, when fired from a helicopter, could simultaneously dye-mark individuals to avoid resampling, were brightly colored to aid in retrieval, could float to allow for sampling bears in the water, and/or were magnetic to aid in remote retrieval of darts in areas where it would be unsafe to land a helicopter (e.g., thin ice). We were able to recover 96% of the darts that had been fired, and had an 86% success rate of collecting a sample with a single biopsy dart. We were able to biopsy and recover darts from 11 polar bears in the water that we would not have been able to sample with traditional dart designs. We successfully sampled a total of 158 adult or subadult polar bears on the land, in the water, and on the sea ice in 2010 and 2011. Dye marks ensured that bears were not resampled during the same sampling period. Darts with 5 mm-wide biopsy cutting heads collected an average of 0.120 grams (95% CI: 0.113 - 0.126, n = 48) of fur, tissue, and fat. Darts with 7 mm-wide biopsy cutting heads collected an average of 0.323 grams (95% CI: 0.248 - 0.398, n = 15) of fur, tissue, and fat. Remote biopsy darting is a less invasive alternative to physically capturing animals and these dart designs enable researchers to more readily sample and identify polar bears from a helicopter.



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