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Data from: Intrapopulation differences in polar bear movement and step selection patterns

Cite this dataset

Wilson, Ryan; St Martin, Michelle; Regehr, Eric; Rode, Karyn (2022). Data from: Intrapopulation differences in polar bear movement and step selection patterns [Dataset]. Dryad.


Background: The spatial ecology of individuals often varies within a population or species. Identifying how individuals in different classes interact with their environment can lead to a better understanding of population responses to human activities and environmental change and improve population estimates. Most inferences about polar bear (Ursus maritimus) spatial ecology are based on data from adult females due to morphological constraints on applying satellite radio collars to other classes of bears. Recent studies, however, have provided limited movement data for adult males and sub-adults of both sexes using ear-mounted and glue-on tags. We evaluated class-specific movements and step selection patterns for polar bears in the Chukchi Sea subpopulation during spring.

Methods: We developed hierarchical Bayesian models to evaluate polar bear movement (i.e., step length and directional persistence) and step selection at the scale of 4-day step lengths. We assessed differences in movement and step selection parameters among the three classes of polar bears (i.e., adult males, sub-adults, and adult females without cubs-of-the-year).

Results: Adult males had larger step lengths and less directed movements than adult females. Sub-adult movement parameters did not differ from the other classes but point estimates were most similar to adult females. We did not detect differences among polar bear classes in step selection parameters and parameter estimates were consistent with previous studies.

Conclusions: Our findings support the use of estimated step selection patterns from adult females as a proxy for other classes of polar bears during spring. Conversely, movement analyses indicated that using data from adult females as a proxy for the movements of adult males is likely inappropriate. We recommend that researchers consider whether it is valid to extend inference derived from adult female movements to other classes, based on the questions being asked and the spatial and temporal scope of the data. Because our data were specific to spring, these findings highlight the need to evaluate differences in movement and step selection during other periods of the year, for which data from ear-mounted and glue-on tags are currently lacking.