Polar bears track potential mates by sniffing the trails left behind by other bears.
Polar bears use their noses to track potential mates or other individuals they wish to meet. They also make use of their smell to avoid the bears that might compete with them over food or that might hurt them.
Scientists from the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research say the changing in the Arctic climate may lead to endangering the species and threaten the process in which bears use their sense of smell. They claim that the paws of these bears are full of glands that produce a powerful scent. Their paws can leave traces of urine or DNA behind, which can be used by some species of bears to identify themselves.
Journal of Zoology published a new study for which the researchers spent five years gathering scent samples from various bears. Both males and female bears were swabbed between their toes by the scientists with some of the females receptive to mating while others not. The samples were frozen and then stored in a facility.
Mostly wild-born bears from 10 American zoos got to sniff the smell that was smeared on a cardboard through some holes in a box made of wood. The zookeepers didn’t want the bears licking the samples as they could have contained pathogens.
According to researchers, in spring bear males would have to fight with other males in order to mate with female bears “with location of mates as the first phase of competition and direct male-male contest competitions as the second phase.” Bear males tested in the spring were highly interested of the foot odor coming from females that were ready to mate.
Conservationists worry that because of the climate change, warming of the environment and ice breakage, the bears won’t be able to keep track of each other, this making it very hard for the polar bears to find potential mates in the wild. If they are unable to track one another than the reproduction process will be a lot harder. Because of the lack of understanding on how these bears are attracted to others, it’s highly unlikely that programs meant for captive breeding to succeed.