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Alaska Fish and Game Tracking Projects

  • Hooper Bay Seal Tagging Project
    The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is working with the Ice Seal Committee and local hunters to capture and deploy satellite transmitters on ice seals to document their habitat use and movements. Such information is important to understand impacts and develop mitigation measures for activities such as oil and gas and shipping lanes.
  • Satellite Tracking of Western Arctic Bowhead Whales
    Bowhead whales are the most important species for subsistence communities along the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas. To better understand the whales’ movement, migration, feeding, and diving habits and how they might be affected by offshore and nearshore oil and gas activities, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, and others began a cooperative research project in 2005 to study the western Arctic stock of bowhead whales.
  • Village-based Walrus Habitat Use Studies in the Chukchi Sea
    Working cooperatively with the Eskimo Walrus Commission and walrus hunters from local communities, ADF&G designed a study to deploy satellite transmitters and conduct counts and observations of walruses on haulouts near villages in spring and fall. From 4 June to 1 July 2013, ADF&G deployed 34 satellite-linked transmitters; 28 on females (13 of which had calves of the year) and 6 on males.

Other Satellite Telemetry Tracking Projects in Alaska

  • Tracking Polar Bears by Satellite
    The USGS Alaska Science Center uses the latest technology in satellite radio-tracking to fill key information gaps on how polar bears use both the sea ice and land. Adult female polar bears are captured, fitted with satellite telemetry collars, and followed throughout their annual range. In collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service we are also experimenting with glue-on and ear tag satellite transmitters, which can be deployed on adult male bears and younger, still-growing bears.
  • Tracking the Porcupine Caribou Herd
    This is a cooperative project between a number of wildlife agencies and Boards to use satellite radio-collars on Porcupine Caribou to document the seasonal range use and migration patterns of the herd. The herd's total home range is approximately 260,000 km2, between Kaktovik, Alaska to Aklavik, NWT to Dawson City, Yukon.
  • Tracking Bar-tailed Godwits
    The Alaska Science Center shorebird research project used satellite telemetry to follow the migrations of two populations of bar-tailed godwits, a group of 9 from New Zealand (NZ) and a group of 15 from Western Australia (WA). The birds from WA represent a subspecies that nests in eastern Siberia whereas the New Zealand birds nest in Alaska. The data is used to compare the migration strategies of the two populations.
  • Tracking King Eider Migration
    King Eiders are large sea ducks that nest in Arctic ecosystems around the world and migrate and winter at sea. Since 2002 the University of Alaska Fairbanks has tracked the migration and movements of King Eiders from breeding grounds in northern Alaska. This data set includes all the locations provided by satellite-tracked King Eiders between June 2002 and December 2008.

Satellite Tracking of Western Arctic Bowhead Whales

Introduction

Bowhead whales are the most important species for subsistence communities along the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas. To better understand the whales’ movement, migration, feeding, and diving habits and how they might be affected by offshore and nearshore oil and gas activities, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, and others began a cooperative research project in 2005 to study the western Arctic stock of bowhead whales.

Map tracking bowhead whale movements between 10/04/2014 – 10/24/2014

Methods

Between 2006 and 2009, 44 satellite transmitters were placed on bowhead whales in Alaska (35) and Canada (9). The majority of tags were deployed in waters near Point Barrow by Alaska Native subsistence whalers and others were deployed near Tuktoyaktuk and near the Alaska-Canada border.

Summary

Once early spring migration began, tagged whales travelled almost directly through the Chukchi Sea mostly between the southern boundary of oil and gas lease sale 193 and shore. Once past Point Barrow (late spring), they travelled directly through the Beaufort Sea to Amundsen Gulf, Canada. Summer movements occurred across the entire Beaufort Sea and included two whales that traversed the Beaufort Sea four times in the same season instead of the usual two. All tagged whales passed through lease sale area 193 after leaving Barrow in the fall and most spent weeks along the northern Chukotka coast before entering the Bering Sea. Winter movements were concentrated in the western Bering Sea from Bering Strait to the ice edge. The success of this project demonstrates what can be accomplished when Alaska Native subsistence hunters and scientists work together.

Results

Tags have lasted an average of >6 months and two others ~10 months, allowing ADF&G to track individual bowhead whales throughout their complete annual migration in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Tagging in consecutive years has allowed scientists to look at the variability in movements and the timing of migration among years.

To learn more about this project see the Bowhead Tracking Project page.