The Journal of Wildlife Management
Many wildlife species are live captured, sampled, and released; for polar bears (Ursus maritimus) capture often requires chemical immobilization via helicopter darting. Polar bears reduce their activity for approximately 4 days after capture, likely reflecting stress recovery. To better understand this stress, we quantified polar bear activity (via collar‐mounted accelerometers) and body temperature (via loggers in the body core [Tabd] and periphery [Tper]) during 2–6 months of natural behavior, and during helicopter recapture and immobilization. Recapture induced bouts of peak activity higher than those that occurred during natural behavior for 2 of 5 bears, greater peak Tper for 3 of 6 bears, and greater peak Tabd for 1 of 6 bears. High body temperature (>39.0°C) occurred in Tper for 3 of 6 individuals during recapture and 6 of 6 individuals during natural behavior, and in Tabd for 2 of 6 individuals during recapture and 3 of 6 individuals during natural behavior. Measurements of Tabd and Tper correlated with rectal temperatures measured after immobilization, supporting the use of rectal temperatures for monitoring bear response to capture. Using a larger dataset (n = 66 captures), modeling of blood biochemistry revealed that maximum ambient temperature during recapture was associated with a stress leukogram (7–26% decline in percent lymphocytes, 12–21% increase in percent neutrophils) and maximum duration of helicopter operations had a similar but smaller effect. We conclude that polar bear activity and body temperature during helicopter capture are similar to that which occurs during the most intense events of natural behavior; high body temperature, especially in warm capture conditions, is a key concern; additional study of stress leukograms in polar bears is needed; and additional data collection regarding capture operations would be useful.
Original Publication Citation
Whiteman, J. P., Harlow, H. J., Durner, G. M., Regehr, E. V., Amstrup, S. C., Pagano, A. M., & Ben‐David, M. (2022). The acute physiological response of polar bears to helicopter capture. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 86(5), 1-19, Article e22238. https://doi.org/10.1002/jwmg.22238
Whiteman, John P.; Harlow, Henry J.; Durner, George M.; Regehr, Eric V.; Amstrup, Steven C.; Pagano, Anthony M.; and Ben-David, Merav, "The Acute Physiological Response of Polar Bears to Helicopter Capture" (2022). Biological Sciences Faculty Publications. 487.