Remote biopsy darting and marking of polar bears



Remote biopsy darting of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) is less invasive and time intensive than physical capture and is therefore useful when capture is challenging or unsafe. We worked with two manufacturers to develop a combination biopsy and marking dart for use on polar bears. We had an 80% success rate of collecting a tissue sample with a single biopsy dart and collected tissue samples from 143 polar bears on land, in water, and on sea ice. Dye marks ensured that 96% of the bears were not resampled during the same sampling period, and we recovered 96% of the darts fired. Biopsy heads with 5 mm diameters collected an average of 0.12 g of fur, tissue, and subcutaneous adipose tissue, while biopsy heads with 7 mm diameters collected an average of 0.32 g. Tissue samples were 99.3% successful (142 of 143 samples) in providing a genetic and sex identification of individuals. We had a 64% success rate collecting adipose tissue and we successfully examined fatty acid signatures in all adipose samples. Adipose lipid content values were lower compared to values from immobilized or harvested polar bears, indicating that our method was not suitable for quantifying adipose lipid content.