WWF Polar Bear Patrol at work on Russia’s east coast

WWF Polar Bear Patrol at work on Russia’s east coast

6 November 2013

By mid-October, an ice bridge had formed in the East Siberian Sea linking drifting sea ice and the west coast of the Chukchi Peninsula. After spending the summer on ice floes, polar bears can finally return to solid ground.


The first of the polar bears returning from sea were spotted in the village of Billings, where over 20 of them crowded around the beached remains of a young gray whale. “The bears were swarming like mosquitoes, with males and mothers with cubs among them,” one villager said. After polishing off the whale, the bears headed east.


The Polar Bear Patrol was waiting for them in the village of Ryrkaipiy, 200 kilometres from Billings. Two gray whales had been beached by a storm just five kilometres away from the village. In addition, several walrus carcasses had been noticed on the summer walrus rookery. The bears obviously would not pass up such a feast, so the patrollers waited for them.


The bears arrived on November 3. Currently the Ryrkaipiy patrol is monitoring 23 polar bears near the remains of the gray whales and four on Cape Kozhevnikova who are feeding on walrus corpses.


The aim of the Bear Patrol is to keep the animals away from residential areas and protect them from poachers. The patrollers also collect samples, including feces and fur, for genetic research conducted by the Marine Mammal Council.


“Monitoring 27 bears at once is not an easy task,” says head of the WWF Bear Patrol Viktor Nikiforov. “But the Bear Patrol team at Ryrkaipiy led by Tatyana Minenko is one of the most effective and experienced. We hope to save lives of people and polar bears.”


(Photos © by M. Deminov)

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