Polar Bear ID: Whiskerprint Analysis

October 31, 2011 by Churchill Wild  
Filed under In The News

CSI: Churchill?

Hey, why not? The popular television franchise is shown in about 35 countries, worldwide, and has been based in Vegas, Miami & NY. We think they should make a Churchill version and we could offer up Churchill Wild’s Seal River Heritage Lodge for production. It has already been used for big budget videoshoots so we’re sure cast & crew would feel right at home and enjoy a big helping of Jeanne’s awesome cooking!

Here’s the perfect context: Jane Waterman’s Whiskerprint project based out of the University of Manitoba. Waterman has come up with a way to identify polar bears without tracking devices:

Thanks to a crew of citizen “research assistants” from around the world, tracking individual polar bears around Churchill is literally a snap.

“We can’t handle and mark polar bears in the tourist region because the marks would interfere with their photography,” Jane Waterman said as she transferred photos of four polar bears from one computer screen on her desk to another.

“But, in order to study the behaviour of bears, we need to identify individuals.”

The solution was the University of Manitoba’s Whiskerprint Project, a database of polar bear photos — most of which have been taken by tourists around the rocky shores of Hudson Bay near Churchill, 1,465 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

“The library uses photographs of the polar bear’s facial profile (left or right side) to distinguish among individuals based on whisker-spot patterns and scars,” Waterman said.

You can go have a look at the Polar Bear Photo-Identification Library at http://polarbearlibrary.org/

Guess Who? The whiskers tell the tale!