The prototypes range from mechanical solutions to adhesive ones and others with a little bit of everything, Jon said. Some of the concepts utilized existing 3M technologies and some ideas are completely new. All needed to be able to withstand extreme cold, snow and saltwater.
Tags also have to withstand bears rolling in the snow and other activity. One idea called the “burr on fur” approach allows the device to latch onto and stick to a bear’s fur with a brush that entangles the fur.
To view a video on the polar bear project, go to Burr on Fur.
“Polar bears will walk through anything,” BJ said. “You’ve got an 800- to 1,800-pound animal rolling around on your transmitter.”
Collaborative spirit, innovation
Jon suspects some designs might prove to withstand the life of a polar bear better than others.
“You can only test so much in a lab. You need to put them on a bear and see where they are at with them. This challenge exemplifies the collaborative spirit, science and creativity that drives innovation at 3M. We are proud to help support Polar Bears International's work."
COVID-19 complicated things because of social distancing. Jon had to be able to train conservation officers virtually how to attach the trackers.
Every year polar bears wander into the town of Churchill, on Hudson Bay. The town conservation officers respond in trucks when the predators pass through, and occasionally a bear is tranquilized and held until it can be relocated. Polar Bears International used that opportunity to apply transmitters to five bears before they were released.