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  • Wendy Loya
    Arctic LCC Coordinator

    U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
    1011 East Tudor Road
    Anchorage, Alaska 99503
    (907) 786-3532
  • Paul Leonard
    Arctic LCC Science Coordinator

    U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
    101 12th Avenue, Rm. 216
    Fairbanks, Alaska 99701
    (907) 456-0445
  • Josh Bradley
    Arctic LCC Data Manager

    U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
    101 12th Avenue, Rm. 216
    Fairbanks, Alaska 99701
    (907) 455-1847

Operational Polar Bear Den Mapping: SnowDens-3D

Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) cubs in their den
Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) cubs in their den. Image by USFWS.
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Polar bears are protected under provisions of the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act and were listed as a threatened species in 2008 under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Protective measures implemented within this legal framework include efforts to avoid disturbing maternal polar bear dens. This is challenging, however, because dens are difficult to detect under the snow surface. To satisfy the requirements of agency and industry managers we have created a user-friendly decision-support tool that takes into account the current fall and early-winter meteorological conditions, and provides snowdrift den-habitat information that can be used to guide polar bear management and avoidance decisions for the rest of that winter after the bears have entered their dens.

This snowdrift den-habitat decision-support tool is based on the recently developed SnowDens- 3D polar bear snowdrift den habitat mapping tool (Liston et al., 2016). The decision-support software ingests available topographic and weather data, and provides output maps of high- probability den locations, for any year of interest, including the current year. The software is available to end-users interested in polar bear management activities, and is available to help “fine tune” habitat search parameters and locations when managers are looking for likely denning areas. A copy of Liston et al. (2016) is provided in the Appendix of the SnowDens-3D user’s guide, or a copy of Liston et al. (2016) is available from the publisher.

Liston, G. E., C. J. Perham, R. T. Shideler, and A. N. Cheuvront, 2016: Modeling snowdrift habitat for polar bear dens. Ecological Modelling, 320, 114-134.