There was hardly any sea ice there, and the bears thus obviously had found out they wanted to be somewhere else. We managed to locate one adult male, though. One of the locals in the fjord, marked there in 2002, 20 years old.
We also found a reindeer carcass with bear tracks around. Many reindeer die in winter, but it is also known from Svalbard that bears successfully kill reindeer on rare occasions. If this one was killed, or a bear had simply found it after it had starved to death, we could not say.
We spotted one female bear with a large painted number on its bum. When we capture a bear, we paint a number on the pelts, thus we are able to avoid drugging it again later in spring. The number disappears in summer, when the guard hairs are shed and replaced. The bear we spotted was an adult female we handled three days ago. She had moved from the neighbour fjord to the west. Resighting bears does provide some useful data about movement for bears we have not equipped with telemetry collars. We put collars on about 10-20 females every year.
After noon, weather became worse, and we sailed out of Wijdefjorden and into Liefdefjorden to the west.
Follow Svalbard bears at the WWF Polar Bear Tracker.
By Jon Aars, Norwegian Polar Institute