Spring 2013 study of Russia’s Arctic shore to be finalised shortly

Spring 2013 study of Russia’s Arctic shore to be finalised shortly

30 April 2013

The Russian Marine Mammal Council (MMC) and the WWF jointly survey the Russian Arctic shore in March and April each year. The main goal of this project, launched in 2009, is to document the tracks of polar bears’ life-sustaining activity on the shore. The monitoring groups focus in particular on the tracks of she-bears and their cubs born that year. The data they collect help scientists to understand the spring distribution of polar bears at the time when she-bears lead their cubs out of their lairs. The lairs themselves are very difficult to find, and furthermore, if a she-bear smells humans she may leave her lair sooner than is needed, with her cubs still too young. However, several days after leaving their lairs, the bear families go out onto field ice. By following their paw prints, monitoring groups can discover the most suitable areas for pregnant she-bears’ lairs.


The monitoring groups are comprised of local villagers, most of them members of the Bear Patrol project, though some groups also include MMC and WWF Russia experts. This year they used snowmobiles to survey the Arctic shore from the Indigirka River in the west to Cape Dezhnev in the east. Two groups of nature protection inspectors from the Yakutian Nature Protection Ministry worked on the Yakutian shore, while the other two groups, which consisted of local residents and MMC and WWF experts, surveyed the shore in the Chukotka Autonomous Area. The project participants have expressed gratitude to tourists who collected interesting information about the polar bears as they travelled by their planned route. The information collected by all observer groups is being processed for subsequent analysis by experts.


In addition to surveying the shore, the groups also hold environmental education meetings at schools in Chukchi villages. Although many Chukchi children have already seen polar bears, they learn many new, interesting facts about them from the group members.


The observers say that another positive element of their work is the active assistance from the border guards of Russia’s Federal Security Service, as well as their general concern for the fate of the polar bear.


In general, the results of this year’s survey have been assessed as satisfactory. The information which the groups of observers have collected will help scientists to protect the polar bear more effectively, a species which is at risk due to climate change.