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Daily Archives: 26. October 2015 − News & Stories


Male polar bear inju­red by sci­en­ti­fic col­lar

Every year, a lar­ge num­ber of polar bears is seda­ted and mar­ked by sci­en­tists in various parts of the Arc­tic. Sam­ples are taken and some of the bears are equip­ped with col­lars that have satel­li­te trans­mit­ters to fol­low their jour­neys. This is usual­ly only done with fema­le polar bears, as the males have a neck too strong and thick to mount the col­lars, which would be lost quick­ly or hurt the bear and even cau­se dif­fi­cul­ties while swal­lowing food and breat­hing. It has so far been com­mon­ly assu­med in public that only fema­le polar bears are mar­ked this way and col­lars are gene­ral­ly not atta­ched to male polar bears.

As it tur­ned out recent­ly, rea­li­ty may be dif­fe­rent, pos­si­b­ly alrea­dy for years. Near Kak­ti­vik in Alas­ka, on the coast of the arc­tic Beau­fort Sea, a male polar bear wea­ring a col­lar has been seen and pho­to­gra­phed. The col­lar is cut­ting into the skin, causing visi­ble inju­ry and most likely pain.

It is belie­ved that the bear has been seda­ted and mar­ked by sci­en­tists in Cana­da. it is said that male polar bears have been equip­ped with col­lars alrea­dy for some time on an expe­ri­men­tal basis. The col­lars are sup­po­sed to drop off auto­ma­ti­cal­ly after a while, which may be half a year. It is pos­si­ble that this does not always work in time. It is also pos­si­ble, actual­ly qui­te likely, that polar bears can put on a lot of weight in short time when they have access to lar­ge amounts of food, for examp­le when a dead wha­le is stran­ded on the beach. On the arc­tic coasts of Cana­da and Alas­ka, polar bears some­ti­mes find wha­le car­cas­ses from indi­ge­nous hun­ting near Inu­it sett­le­ments. This is unpre­dic­ta­ble, accord­ing to rele­vant aut­ho­ri­ties. The­se events do inde­ed not occur on regu­lar inter­vals, but they are well known and not rare, so they have to be expec­ted and accoun­ted for at any time.

In the USA inclu­ding Alas­ka, the United Sta­tes Fish & Wild­life Ser­vices (USFWS) is the aut­ho­ri­ty respon­si­ble for mana­ging and pro­tec­ting mari­ne wild­life inclu­ding polar bears. Accord­ing to the USFWS, the polar bear is moni­to­red, but resour­ces are not avail­ab­le to help it. May­be moti­va­ti­on to take action is limi­ted as the bear recei­ved the col­lar most likely in Cana­da.

The actu­al case seems to have been known local­ly alrea­dy for mon­ths and it is now get­ting public atten­ti­on. Inte­res­ted indi­vi­du­als are approa­ching the USFWS, adding pres­su­re to help the bear and release it from the col­lar. More about the pre­sent dis­cus­sion, inclu­ding con­ta­ct details of rele­vant aut­ho­ri­ties, on the Face­book-page Pro­tect the Polar Bear. Mor­ten Jør­gen­sen from Den­mark has taken initia­ti­ve. Mor­ten is also the aut­hor of the book Polar Bears on the edge, whe­re sci­en­ti­fic tre­at­ment of polar bears is dis­cus­sed cri­ti­cal­ly.

Sci­en­ti­fic seda­ti­on, exami­na­ti­on and mar­king of polar bears is gene­ral­ly a trau­ma­tic event for the ani­mals con­cer­ned, not to men­ti­on cases whe­re fema­le bears with cubs are trea­ted this way. See also news posts Polar bear dead after ana­es­the­ti­sa­ti­on by sci­en­tists (II) and Polar bear found dead in Petu­nia­buk­ta had been ana­es­the­ti­sed for sci­en­ti­fic pur­po­ses on this web­site.

Orga­niz­a­ti­ons such as WWF and Polar Bears Inter­na­tio­nal are sup­por­ting sci­en­ti­fic work on polar bears inclu­ding satel­li­te col­lars. The dis­cus­sion about risks of this work is not new, but has not reached the gene­ral public yet.

Male polar bear in Alas­ka, equip­ped with and inju­red by a sci­en­ti­fic col­lar with satel­li­te trans­mit­ter. Nor­mal­ly, only fema­le polar bears recei­ve such col­lars.

Male polar bear with collar and injuries

Source: Infor­ma­ti­on from Mor­ten Jør­gen­sen / Face­book-page Pro­tect the Polar Bear

Polar bear mother with 3 cubs has lost 2 of them

In May 2015, a polar bear fami­ly with 3 cubs has been obser­ved in Tem­pel­fjord and Bill­efjord (click here for May arti­cle on this web­site).

Triplets are very rare, twins are nor­mal. The fema­le in ques­ti­on, did, howe­ver, not have triplets for the first time: in april 2011, she had alrea­dy been caught, seda­ted and exami­ned by sci­en­tists on the east coast of Spits­ber­gen, when she had triplets. Back then, only one of three cubs sur­vi­ved in the end.

In spring 2015, the fema­le was caught and seda­ted again. At that time, her 3 cubs were so small that they were not seda­ted, but they were pre­sent during the exami­na­ti­on of their mother. Accord­ing to data from the satel­li­te trans­mit­ter on the col­lar that was atta­ched to the fema­le on the occa­si­on, the fami­ly then star­ted a remar­kab­le jour­ney nor­thwards to spend the sum­mer north of Nord­aus­t­land. Later, they retur­ned south again, cros­sing Nord­aus­t­land, Hin­lo­pen Strait and nor­the­as­tern Spits­ber­gen to return to Tem­pel­fjord, whe­re the fema­le was recent­ly seen. Only one cub was still with her, the other two are appar­ent­ly lost. It is not known when and how they died, but it is com­mon that mother polar bears lose part of their off­spring during the first sum­mer or later. Access to food can be dif­fi­cult, and com­pe­ti­ti­on bet­ween the cubs can be strong then.

Polar bear fami­ly in Bill­efjord, April 2015.

Polar bear family in Billefjord

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten (41/2015)

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