Choose Your PoisonSpace-Use Strategy Influences Pollutant Exposure in Barents Sea Polar Bears

Variation in space-use is common within mammal populations. In polar bears, Ursus maritimus, some individuals follow the sea ice (offshore bears) whereas others remain nearshore yearlong (coastal bears). We studied pollutant exposure in relation to space-use patterns (offshore vs coastal) in adult female polar bears from the Barents Sea equipped with satellite collars (2000–2014, n = 152). First, we examined the differences in home range (HR) size and position, body condition, and diet proxies (nitrogen and carbon stable isotopes, n = 116) between offshore and coastal space-use. Second, we investigated how HR, space-use, body condition, and diet were related to plasma concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) (n = 113), perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs; n = 92), and hydroxylated-PCBs (n = 109). Offshore females were in better condition and had a more specialized diet than did coastal females. PCBs, OCPs, and hydroxylated-PCB concentrations were not related to space-use strategy, yet PCB concentrations increased with increasing latitude, and hydroxylated-PCB concentrations were positively related to HR size. PFAS concentrations were 30–35% higher in offshore bears compared to coastal bears and also increased eastward. On the basis of the results we conclude that space-use of Barents Sea female polar bears influences their pollutant exposure, in particular plasma concentrations of PFAS.