Snowmobilers are being urged to avoid driving on the sea ice at Billefjorden because “there have been observed two polar bear families with four-month-old cubs in the area and these cubs are in a critical phase of survival,” according to The Governor of Svalbard.
The inlet leading to Pyramiden is a standard route for those visiting the abandoned Russian mining settlement, but an advisory issued Thursday by the governor recommends an alternate route proceeding from Von Postbreen to Phillipbreen to Filcherfonna to Ragnarbreen.
“The governor will supervise traffic in the area,” the notice states. “If conditions warrant, tighter restrictions be considered.”
Spring is peak feeding season for polar bears due to the ability to hunt for seals on the sea ice and it is vital for cubs to be well nourished so they can survive during the summer when there is typically little access to food. In addition, hunting is often a lengthy process.
“When a seal come up to breathe, it is taken by the bear,” the governor’s notice states. “It may take a long time before the seal comes to the breathing hole that the bear standing by and it is therefore important that it is not disturbed while it hunts. Snowmobile traffic can easily disrupt the hunt, even at a distance.”
The Svalbard Environmental Protection Act prohibits people from seeking out and disrupting polar bears.