It’s no surprise that the polar bear has become an icon of climate change, since it’s a living example of what happens when rising temperatures begin to destroy an ecosystem. The problem is, very few people ever journey to the Arctic to see the changes first hand. In attempt to bring the bears’ plight closer to home, Google has been secretly working with Polar Bears International to capture rare glimpses of the animals in a place known as “the polar bear capital of the world.” The result is a face-to-face encounter with the majestic creatures that we’re driving to the brink of extinction.

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As we’ve seen in the past, Google likes to push the boundaries of what technology can do. While we may depend on Google Maps to get us around traffic or to a new hotel in a strange city, Google researchers have consistently put their mapping technology to work for the planet. They’ve used the Street View cameras to track deforestation in real time, explore the Galapagos Islands, and hike the Grand Canyon–making it possible for anyone to experience these natural wonderlands without getting off the couch.

In this latest adventure, Polar Bears International, an organization dedicated to protecting these majestic creatures, invited Google to the Canadian Arctic to capture rare glimpses of the bears. Using their 360-degree cameras, the Google Maps team “was able to capture once-in-a-lifetime images of male polar bears sparring and mother bears nursing their young; they were also able to capture important visual data that will one day show the changing climate of the Canadian tundra – something that is putting the polar bear population at risk,” reports Global News.

Related: Polar Bear Tragically Starves to Death Because of Global Warming

The setting was Churchill, Canada, a tiny arctic town where polar bears are seen as the barometer to measure changes in the environment.

“This quiet town, set on the shores of western Hudson Bay, is a place where polar bears and humans coexist until the sea ice forms and the polar bears can travel on to the bay to hunt seals, their main prey,” explains the Google Street View blog.

“During the warmer months, the polar bears are forced ashore by melting ice,” the blog continues. “While climate change may seem like a gradual process, often difficult to discern, the impact is real and evident in the polar bear capital. In Churchill, climate change has shortened the time that the bay remains frozen, reducing the polar bears’ hunting season by approximately four weeks.”

The result is a lot more polar bear activity in town. And while this extra time in town makes for some great photographs, the implications are dire. Trek through Churchill with Google Street View to see the toll climate change is taking on this town, and these wonderful animals.

Via Discovery News

Related: Scientists Use Google’s Underwater Street View to Better Understand Coral Reefs