Biologists go to Russian Arctic National Park to study polar bears

Biologists go to Russian Arctic National Park to study polar bears

31 March 2021

A group of biologists from the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution at the Russian Academy of Sciences arrived at the Omega field station on Alexandra Land in Russian Arctic National Park, the park’s press service reports. They plan to study polar bear dens and put tracking collars on female bears.


“The spring polar bear monitoring continued after a year’s break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite logistics difficulties and the many cancelled expeditions, biologists continued studying the species in the national park on Novaya Zemlya,” said Alexander Kirilov, director of Russian Arctic National Park.


In spring female bears take their cubs out of the dens, which is of great interest to biologists,” he added.


This season biologists will continue monitoring the Barents Sea polar bear populations. Their goal is to determine the actual condition of the animals by collecting samples for biochemical tests and tagging specific bears.


During the first days of work on Alexandra Land, the biologists inspected the coastal territory and located a number of possible polar bear dens.


“During a planned trip to search for bears, the biologists found a young bear on the ice of the strait between the islands of Alexandra Land and George Land. A group of biologists accompanied by Russian Arctic rangers started pursuing it. A quarter-hour passed between the time they located it and hit it with a dart. The bear fell asleep a bit later," said Nikolai Gernet, a wildlife photographer who works for the national park.


The young male bear was 5 to 6 years old and weighed over 200 kg. It was impossible to put a tracking collar on it: Only adult female bears can be safely collared. However, the biologists took all the biochemical samples, including those to detect heavy metals and genetic diseases.


The national park’s film crew, which is making a documentary called Bears’ Corner, is following the work of the biologists in the Arctic. The film, supported by the Russian Geographical Society (RGS), features a group of biologists headed by Ilya Mordvintsev (PhD in Biology), senior research associate of the Severtsov Institute.