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Home* News and Stories → The long migration of polar bear Kara

The long migration of polar bear Kara

Polar bears in Spitsbergen are tagged with satellite transmitters every year by the Norwegian Polar Institute. It is possible to follow some of them on a WWF website on their migrations.

In many cases, the female bears stay within a more or less limited area for quite some time. But polar bear Kara has recently beaten all records: tagged in January 2013 on a glacier between Hornsund and Hambergbukta on Spitsbergen’s east coast, she made a migration of an incredible 3703 km within less than a year. She started towards Novaya Zemlya and then went north towards Franz Josef Land, but so far without going on land anywhere. She then went even further east to Severnaya Zemlja, where she finally spent some time ashore after having crossed the Kara Sea completely. Kara finally went west again to Franz Josef Land, where the sender stopped transmitting data. She might have gone into a snow cave to give birth to polar bear babies – maybe she is happy mother of two little polar bears by now …?

The female polar bear Kara was, at the time of tagging, 13 years old, 2.2 m long and weighs a moderate 217 kg.

Generally, data from the most recent tagging season in spring 2014 may suggest that female polar bears have currently got less offspring than in other years: only 3 out of 29 females had cubs in their second year, the normal rate should be somewhere near one third. But the total number is too low to fully exclude coincidence.

Marking and tagging polar bears is controversial, as tranquilizing the bears while following them with a helicopter is quite stressful for the animals and there are cases when the bear did not survive. This happened in October 2013 on Edgeøya (eastern Spitsbergen) and possibly again in April 2014. In the latter case, however, the exact cause of death is not yet certain. In spring 2014, a total of 73 polar bears have been tranquilized and examined in Spitsbergen.

The migration of polar bear Kara from Spitsbergen to the Russian Arctic. Image source: WWF

Migration of polar bear Kara

Source: WWF, Svalbardposten

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