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Home* News and Stories → Polar bear found dead in Petu­ni­abuk­ta had been anaes­the­ti­sed for sci­en­ti­fic pur­po­ses

Polar bear found dead in Petu­ni­abuk­ta had been anaes­the­ti­sed for sci­en­ti­fic pur­po­ses

Initi­al­ly, it see­med to be a very nor­mal, natu­ral cour­se of things when locals from Lon­gye­ar­by­en found a dead polar bear in Petu­ni­abuk­ta, near Pyra­mi­den, on 07 April. Soon, howe­ver, it tur­ned out that the ani­mal had been anaes­the­ti­sed for sci­en­ti­fic pur­po­ses just a few days befo­re, on 04 April. The body was con­se­quent­ly brought to Lon­gye­ar­by­en for a post­mor­tem.

In con­tra­ry to ear­ly local rumours, it has been sta­ted that outer inju­ries, as might have been cau­sed by ano­ther bear, are not pre­sent. Other polar bears pose a real thre­at to anaes­the­ti­sed bears. The cau­se of death is at pre­sent unclear. Tis­sue samples have been taken for fur­ther inves­ti­ga­ti­ons, but it may take weeks until results are available.

Anaes­the­ti­sa­ti­on of polar bears can have secon­da­ry effects which may be lethal in extre­me cases. Once sci­en­ti­fic works are finis­hed, the ani­mals are not being sur­vey­ed any fur­ther. Other bears may do harm to defen­ce­l­ess polar bears. Also a chan­ge of posi­ti­on can inflict suf­fo­ca­ti­on. This is what hap­pen­ed to a polar bear found dead on Edgeøya in Sep­tem­ber 2013, which had been anaes­the­ti­sed short­ly befo­re (see Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com news: Polar bear dead after anaes­the­ti­sa­ti­on by sci­en­tists)

Anaes­the­ti­sa­ti­on of polar bears, which includes fol­lo­wing them with a heli­c­op­ter, is a trau­ma­tic expe­ri­ence for the ani­mals with secon­da­ry effects that are obvious­ly poten­ti­al­ly very dan­ge­rous. Popu­la­ti­on data are, in Spits­ber­gen, not nee­ded for admi­nis­tra­ti­ve pur­po­ses: here as well as in the neigh­bou­ring Rus­si­an Arc­tic, polar bears are com­ple­te­ly pro­tec­ted. The­re is no acti­ve manage­ment such as the fixing of an annu­al quo­ta for hun­ting. Thre­ats are more glo­bal, main­ly cli­ma­te chan­ge and long-lived envi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­ti­on, and can­not be mana­ged regio­nal­ly.

In late sum­mer 2012, a polar bear fami­ly with two first year cubs were anaes­the­ti­sed in Bil­lefjord. The fami­ly show­ed signi­fi­cant beha­viour chan­ges at least for a while, poin­ting to the stress such an expe­ri­ence invol­ves for the ani­mals (see Cha­sing polar bears with heli­c­op­ter in the name of sci­ence, Octo­ber 2012). It is pos­si­ble that the bear found dead now is one of the two litt­le cubs of the fami­ly in Bil­lefjord seen by many in Bil­lefjord in 2012: it was a 1.5 year old fema­le.

Not always the natu­ral way of life: dead polar bear (archi­ve pho­to, Nord­aus­t­land).

dead polar bear, Nordaustland

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten (16/2014)



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last modification: 2014-07-01 · copyright: Rolf Stange