Sci-fi tools track bears from outer space

Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2007

The bears are being tracked by government satellites. Self-release collars with microchips supply data on their movement and location. Some emit radio signals by the second.

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No wonder the bears have taken to the hills! I would flee civilization too if the government was tracking me with a Global Positioning System.

I have everything backwards, you say?

OK, fine. I still can picture spy planes circling overhead as I resort to a diet of berries, nuts and whatever I can find in peoples' trash cans.

I have a hard time in anonymity, making do with the stuff nature provides - hamburgers, Cheetos, etc. To do so under the scrutiny of the state might drive me into the wilderness.

After seeing a mama bear with a tagged ear on Mount Juneau, I vowed to learn more. My research was extensive and exhaustive.

(Editor's note: Lewis made one phone call.)

What I uncovered was frightening. We now have technology that has the potential to be even more annoying than cell phones.

Forgive me if I sound like a high-tech used-car salesman.

We have radio transmitters pulsing at high frequencies. We have GPS data chips in collars with self-release option for EZ pickup.

Pressed for time? We have transmitter data that can be downloaded from the convenience of your low-flying airplane. All you need is a laptop and a strong connection.

Then we have my personal favorite, the device that links the bear to the Argos satellite system and forwards data through space to whatever land-based computer you have at your fingertips.

(Editor's note: Lewis did not make that up.)

You don't have to be a psychotic boss or control-obsessed parent to see the secondary benefits. Did your bear really spend a full eight hours at the office on Friday? Where did your bear go after school last week?

You have questions? Technology has answers.

It turns out that the bear I saw on Mount Juneau is a well-known female that has been tagged and collared for quite a while. She spends time near Gold Creek and the Flume, much like myself. Hopefully that's all we have in common.

But if you see me squatting in a thicket of berry bushes, picking at my collar, tugging at my ear tag and muttering gibberish about the government, then you'll know what happened.

You may take pictures, but give the subject some space. And never, ever feed him.

• Ken Lewis can be reached at 523-2263 or ken.lewis@juneauempire.com.



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