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Polar bears nuzzle potential mates and play soccer with a frozen seal carcass in an amazing new video captured by collar cameras attached to the iconic animals.
This rare peek at Arctic life is part of an ongoing research project led by the U.S. Geological Survey that aims to track the health of Alaskan polar bears. The USGS said this is the first point-of-view video ever recorded from free-ranging polar bears.
"None of us have ever seen anything like this before," said Todd Atwood, leader of the polar bear research program at the USGS' Alaska Science Center in Anchorage. "It's a 'gee-whiz' feeling, seeing through the eyes of a polar bear."
The collar cams also serve as fitness trackers for the polar bears: Each collar is equipped with an accelerometer, a device similar to the gadget in a fitness tracker that records a person's movement.
When combined with video, scientists can decode the collar's movement data — whether the bears are eating, hunting, swimming or walking. The information will help researchers gauge how much energy the bears expend during their daily activities.
But the videos revealed more than the bears' calorie count. Some of the behaviors recorded on camera had never been seen before — for instance, one polar bear plunked its frozen seal carcass into the sea.
"These animals are hard to observe in a natural setting," Atwood told Live Science. "This gives us a very unique insight into what they do on a daily basis."
Researchers speculated that the seal-dipping bear might have been warming the icy seal to make it more palatable, or perhaps the bear was playing with its food as part of a mating ritual with a nearby male.
- Becky Oskin, Live Science
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