Fairweather Science's polar bear den detection operation occurs during the first half of December. The exact time frames and locations of surveys are dictated by USFWS, which typically hosts a meeting in mid-November to make this determination. During this annual meeting, representatives of companies with winter work collaborate to outline specific areas intended for survey.
Through its relationships with aerial surveillance specialists USFWS and key North Slope operators, Fairweather Science has standardized the aerial infrared camera surveillance process, resulting in streamlined logistics and reduced expenses through cost sharing. In addition to helping satisfy regulatory requirements for clients, cost sharing allows the Fairweather Science team to more efficiently survey habitats outside of planned project areas, significantly contributing to the existing base of knowledge. This added surveillance typically occurs when flying along coasts or barrier islands to calibrate equipment on likely den sites. While information gathered at these dens may be a non-factor for industry, it helps support ongoing research of den location and emergence timing. Accurate knowledge of existing den locations helps operators and USFWS make informed decisions.
When a den is located near planned winter activity, a plan of action is set into play, and projects may be rerouted or postponed in order to give bears their space. The rule of thumb is that activity or travel is restricted within a one-mile buffer of a den. Fairweather Science maintains constant communication with the USFWS during the survey period, and consults with them immediately when a potential den is sighted.