Scientists Are Counting Polar Bears Using Satellite Images

It's a lot cheaper than sending helicopters.

Aw. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Aw. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Even though it’s their job, not even researchers want to brave the chilly Canadian tundra to count how many polar bears there are. So, instead they’re using images obtained from satellites to get an accurate count of how many furry white beasts are around.

The study is being spearheaded by Seth Stapleton, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Minnesota. He told CBC News that is the first time a technique like this has been tested in the region.

Helicopters were previously sent to Rowley Island in Nanavut to track the bears, but zipping around in low-flying and noisy aircraft disturbed the wildlife. Also, it’s a lot cheaper because helicopters cost as much as $1,500 per hour, while purchasing a satellite image only costs $5 per square kilometer.

This new method brought upon “remarkably similar” results in terms of how many they counted. “Knowing exactly how many there are gives us information about how many we can harvest on an annual basis at a sustainable level,” said another researcher.

Researchers think the high-tech solution could be used in the future to count other animals, like seals or caribou.