Researchers explore Medvezhyi Islands

Researchers explore Medvezhyi Islands

16 April 2018

The Ministry of Environmental Protection of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) has been monitoring polar bear dens on Medvezhyi Islands in the East Siberian Sea for over a decade. In spring 2018, it was decided to change the traditional practice of inspecting the area using a tractor or an ATV, and use three snowmobiles instead. On one hand, it will improve the mobility of the group, but on the other, they have to wait for good weather. In late March, the researchers had to spend some time in the village of Pokhodsk waiting for the strong winds (up to 10-13 metres per second) to calm down.


In the early morning of 31 March, when the blizzard stopped, a group of four took the road. The group consisted of Viktor Nikiforov, an expert from the Marine Mammals research and expedition centre, as well as representatives of the Nizhnekolymsk environmental inspectorate Ruslan Sleptsov, Vyacheslav Sleptsov and Valery Arbatsky.


A small shack on one of the arms of the Nizhnyaya Kolyma River, 60 kilometres north of Pokhodsk, was used as the first camp. It took the expedition four hours to get there. Unfortunately, there is no real house to spend the night in and to take shelter from the elements at the river mouth. The shack was covered in thick snow up to the roof, and it took a lot of effort to dig it out and get inside.


The expedition made its base on Leontyeva Island, located in the centre of the archipelago, so it would be convenient to travel to all other islands. Gradually the weather got better (to -10 degrees Celsius) and the group was able to inspect the entire territory on snowmobiles within several days.


“There were no less than eight polar bear dens on Medvezhyi Islands this year,” said polar bear expert Viktor Nikiforov. “For me, it was a special season. My first one was in 2008. I am glad that thanks to our work and the data we provide, the Russian government is going to establish a federal-level protected area there.”


(Photo © Viktor Nikiforov)