Answering such a question in the far north comes with unique challenges, though.
Our Arctic Beringia Program faced one such obstacle last year. As Dr. Stephen Insley detailed on WCS Canada's blog, the team had placed a buoy in Sachs Harbor, in the western Canadian Arctic, to record underwater noise.
This would give a better picture of what the local whales and seals were up to and help the team better understand how the animals might be impacted by increased human activity.
At some point, before Insley and the team could retrieve the data they had recorded though, the buoy disappeared underwater.
Suspicion fell on polar bears.
The disappearance coincided with a sighting on the outskirts of the nearby town. The local safety officer had chased two bears out of the area and one was seen swimming off in the direction of the buoy.
Eventually, after hours of dredging the water to no avail, Insley and a local colleague (who also happened to be said safety officer) struck research gold—they hooked onto the rope that was attached to the buoy and pulled it up.
On it, they had their smoking gun: water poured out of the busted float from a pair of teeth-sized holes, which were separated by roughly the width of a polar bear's jaw.
We need your help
Your tax-deductible gift supports cutting-edge exhibits, first-class
animal care, and in-depth research to help threatened wildlife
survive and thrive.
WCS News & Updates
Sign up for WCS news and we'll keep you updated on the latest from the field.