Last day in the field



Posted on 30 April 2012  | 
A polar bear recovering after sedation.
© Jon Aars / NPIEnlarge
Today was our last day in the field this spring. We flew in Isfjorden, the fjord where Longyearbyen, the main settlement, is located.

There are not that many bears here, most bears are found in the eastern and northern part of Svalbard, Isfjorden is on the western side and dominated by a warm sea current from south, making the fjords ice free much of the year. Thus, it was not that a big surprise that it took us about two hours to locate bears.

On the northern side of the fjord, we found in total nine places where ringed seal cubs or adults had been killed by bears, and all by one family of a mother and two two-year old females! They were in really good shape, the cubs heavier than an average adult female. This was a really clear indication that the high densities of seals in some areas with sea ice covering much less area than in most years could improve hunting efficiency a lot. It mirrors what we have seen this season, with adults a bit above average condition, and cubs of the year much heavier than in normal years. Ringed seals on the other hand must have had a very hard year in many areas.

All together, we ended on 81 polar bears handled this year, a bit better than an average year.

Follow Svalbard polar bears at the WWF Polar Bear Tracker.

By Jon Aars, Norwegian Polar Institute


A polar bear recovering after sedation.
© Jon Aars / NPI Enlarge
In front of glaciers, pieces of glacier ice freezes together with sea ice, and snow accumulated. This makes a good habitat for ringed seals that make lairs where pups are born in spring. Polar bears, and particularly females with small cubs, hunt in these areas in spring. The ringed seal pups are extremely important for polar bear cub survival in the critical phase after the bear families have just left their dens.
© Jon Aars / NPI Enlarge

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