Researchers to use tracking collars to study polar bears’ behaviour during ice-free period

Researchers to use tracking collars to study polar bears’ behaviour during ice-free period

4 September 2018

The Severstov Institute of Ecology and Evolution at the Russian Academy of Sciences has evaluated this year’s seasonal distribution and population count of polar bears on islands during the ice-free period. Scientists also analysed the population’s status against climate change on the Yamal Peninsula and the Gydansky Nature Reserve.  


Over the two-day survey from a Yamal Airlines Mil Mi-8MTV helicopter, the scientists examined Shokalsky Island, Vilkitsky Island and Neupokoyev Island. In the course of the flight, they spotted one female bear on Shokalsky Island and another female bear on Vilkitsky Island, both in great shape.


The two animals were immobilised from the helicopter using a tranquiliser gun and examined. The scientists recorded their dimensions, age and weight, and collected samples of blood, fur and feces for further study. Their analysis will show the amount of heavy metals and other contaminants in their bodies, general condition and any health issues. 


The scientists put on the females collars with embedded Russia-produced Argos satellite transmitters. They will allow for monitoring the animals’ movements almost in real time and evaluating the polar bears’ daily, seasonal and annual activity and mobility. The tracking collars can also help researchers monitor the animals’ behaviour against the changing climate and human impact.


The first data obtained since the females were collared indicate that the animals do not remain on the same island for a long time. On the contrary, they are constantly on the move, swimming from one island to another and exploring new huge territories on the Yamal Peninsula shoreline.


The expedition will present its results at the 10th Marine Mammals of the Holarctic international conference held between 29 October and 2 November 2018 in Arkhangelsk.


The project is conducted in close cooperation with the Wildlife Conservation and Research Society, the Russian Centre for Arctic Exploration, and the Gydansky Nature Reserve, with the support of Rosneft.


The project is part of the Russian Arctic Polar Bear Study programme carried out by the Russian Academy of Sciences’ ongoing study of Russian Red Data Book animals and other endangered Russian fauna.