Polar bears tracked by hair, feces

June 19, 2009 at 4:23 PM
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KINGSTON, Ontario, June 19 (UPI) -- Analyzing hair and feces from polar bears could prove more valuable than tracking them by helicopter to tranquilize and tag them, Canadian researchers said.

The new approach to monitoring polar bears is accurate, cheaper and much easier on the potentially endangered animals, researchers at Queen's University in Kingston said in a release Friday.

Queen's researchers have established "hair traps -- fenced enclosures with meat which collect bits of hair as bears try to reach the food. Analyzing that DNA, along with DNA from feces samples collected at the traps, will help determine the number and sex of polar bears in a particular region, university biologist Peter V.C. de Groot said.

The samples will be genetically screened by researchers at the San Diego Zoo for disease-causing agents that infect polar bears.

The Queen's research team will be aided by $500,000 from the Canadian Ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs. The money is part of an effort to protect Canada's Arctic sovereignty, the researchers said.

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