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Polar bears’ spring studies completed in Russian Arctic zone

Spring is a very important season for polar bears

TASS, May 7. Specialists of the Russian Arctic national park and the Severtsov Ecology and Evolution Studies Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences completed the first since 1981 land expedition to conduct spring studies of polar bears, the national park’s press service said.

"Noteworthy, monitoring of the kind and marking polar bears in spring have been organized on the archipelago (Franz-Josef Land) on land for the first time since 1981," the press service quoted the national park’s Deputy Director on Scientific Studies Ivan Mizin as saying. "Since that time, there have been only two projects to monitor the Russian Arctic’s territory from airplanes - in the late 1990s and in 2004."

Spring is a very important season for polar bears, as in April mother-bears are taking their cubs out from dens. Spring observations may give much information about the animals.

"Within four weeks of daily work, the scientists observed carefully and for a few times all the available, free from ice, territory of the Alexandra Land Island (the Franz-Josef Land archipelago), with the exception for the Mary Harmsworth Cape, searching for dens and for traces the bears could leave," the national park’s representative said. "They also collected biological material, put special collars equipped with transmitters, and installed individual ear marks."


The expedition’s results

Within the four weeks, the researchers saw 29 polar bears - 15 adults and 14 cubs, found eight dens, two of which were just a few meters apart. "One of them was a winter shelter for a single male bear, and in the other a bear delivered a cub," Mizin said.

According to collected data, human activities in the Alexandra Land’s central area have not affected the bears’ population or behavior.

"Locations of dens have not changed, the bears still come regularly to the areas where seals live in the Severnaya Bay - right within sight of people and equipment, and the bears came to the base twice during that month - once a mother bear and her cubs spent the night right next the house," he continued. "Thus, certain anthropogenic development of the Alexandra Land may continue without doing harm to polar bears."

Potential for further studies

The expedition’s results offer a big potential for new research, the press service said. For example, the scientists found more mother-bears with cubs than the number of dens, which proves the island’s some far-away areas were not studied. Besides, specialists watched migration of the animals, leaving dens, to neighboring islands.

Scientists would be watching four bears with cubs, on which they have installed transmitters. The researchers will see where they stay, how they get along the drifting ice and will see how the changing climate affects their life, how the animals get used to new conditions in the area of Franz-Josef Land.