bearsnyalesund

Shell game: Seabirds and scientists in Ny-Ålesund sent scrambling as polar bears increasingly raiding nests for eggs

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Polar bears losing their traditional hunting areas on the sea ice due to climate change are increasingly seeking out seabird nests for their eggs, in turn disrupting the peak season for birds who are breeding and researchers who are studying the animals.

A nest raid by a female polar bear and her cub last Sunday near Ny-Ålesund forced researchers to temporarily abandon their annual population count of common eiders and barnacle geese in Kongsfjorden. This summer’s intrusion comes after the same bear raided 80 eider birds’ nests holding about 300 eggs in three to four days.

birdsraided
Barnacle geese are among the seabirds finding their nests increasingly under threat from polar bears in Ny-Ålesund. Photo by Geir Wing Gabrielsen / Norwegian Polar Institute.

“Many female eiders and geese have lost their nests after the polar bear robberies this year,” said Geir Wing Gabrielsen, a seabird researcher for the Norwegian Polar Institute, in a report at the institute’s website detailing the bears’ altered behavior.

The mother bear, believed to be 14 years old, is familiar to researchers in the area, and tends to wander from  Woodfjorden or Raudfjorden to Kongsfjorden and Krossfjorden every summer. She and her cub were observed in Woodfjorden in late April, when researchers removed a tracking collar she had been fitted with.

The presence of sea ice, which polar bears traditionally rely on to hunt seals, has diminished drastically since 2006, especially in west Spitsbergen where during the past few years large areas have been ice-free during the winter. Increasing tourist traffic in some areas where bears are able to hunt is also disrupting hunting activities, with The Governor of Svalbard closing several high-traffic areas this spring because of travelers disturbing bears and seals.

 

 

About Post Author

Mark Sabbatini

I'm a professional transient living on a tiny Norwegian island next door to the North Pole, where once a week (or thereabouts) I pollute our extreme and pristine environment with paper fishwrappers decorated with seemingly random letters that would cause a thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters to die of humiliation. Such is the wisdom one acquires after more than 25 years in the world's second-least-respected occupation, much of it roaming the seven continents in search of jazz, unrecognizable street food and escorts I f****d with by insisting they give me the platonic tours of their cities promised in their ads. But it turns out this tiny group of islands known as Svalbard is my True Love and, generous contributions from you willing, I'll keep littering until they dig my body out when my climate-change-deformed apartment collapses or they exile my penniless ass because I'm not even worthy of washing your dirty dishes.
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