Keeping an eye on wild polar bears

NC Zoo tracks polar bears in the Arctic 

November 29, 2018

Here’s Your Chance to Track a Polar Bear!

Have you ever wondered what a polar bear does all day? Here’s your chance to find out what the day is like for a mother bear and her two cubs. The North Carolina Zoo and the North Carolina Zoo Society are teaming up to symbolically adopt a bear through Polar Bears International (PBI). The Zoo held a naming contest for the “adopted” bear and Yura was the clear favorite. Yura is Inuit for “one who is beautiful."

PBI is the leading polar bear conservation group in the world solely dedicated to conserving wild polar bears and their threatened Arctic environment. The North Carolina Zoo has served as an official Arctic Ambassador Center for PBI since 2009. The Zoo is among an elite group of 40 zoos, aquariums and museums that partner with PBI on conservation efforts.

Group of museums track Arctic polar bears with collars

Every fall, up to ten female polar bears in the wild are fitted with GPS collars to continually track their movements. This collaring program through PBI has been active in this region for several decades, providing one of the best long-term monitoring datasets for female polar bears in the world. Collars last up to one year, dropping off automatically on a pre-programmed date. PBI displays the bear’s movements online for the public to follow on their free Polar Bear Tracker.

The North Carolina Zoo’s bear is Polar Bear ID X33805. She is a female with two cubs – a boy and a girl. The tracker is updated once a week, usually on Monday, from October to July each year.

Polar Bears are the largest and most carnivorous member of the bear family. They roam the Arctic ice sheets and swim in the regions coastal waters, making polar bears a symbol to many people of the wild Arctic, one of the last unsettled places on Earth. Polar bear populations in the wild are considered "vulnerable" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The North Carolina Zoo is also home to a breeding pair of polar bears: female Anana and male Nikita. The pair have yet to produce an offspring.

—Frank Graff 

 Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on Sci NC, a broadcast and online science series.