Ilya Mordvintsev: Polar bear research to continue in upcoming year

Ilya Mordvintsev: Polar bear research to continue in upcoming year

27 December 2022

Ilya Mordvintsev, PhD in Biology, leading research fellow at the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution at the Russian Academy of Sciences, talked about the results of the year and plans for the new research period.


In 2022, projects to study the polar bear and the Atlantic walrus that began in 2020‒2021 with the support of Rosneft came to an end.


“The field work was conducted for two years on the Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya, and this year, we analysed the information obtained. We have data on the migration of the polar bears that we had marked; we studied their individual and annual habitats. Two females keep transmitting signals and it seems that they have taken to their dens,” the scientist said.


Experts also managed to obtain toxicology data showing the levels of various heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants in polar bears. All indices are within the normal range and the animals are in no danger, Ilya Mordvintsev said. The bears are in good shape by any measure.


“As for diseases, we have not found anything serious except for trichinosis. But this disease is common in most adult bears all across the Arctic, not only in the Russian Arctic zone,” the researcher said.


The expert acknowledged that the scientists had failed to make all planned trips, but one particular expedition was fascinating.


“Last October, we worked on the Medvezhyi Islands, an archipelago in the East Siberian Sea. It is a remarkable place which remains underexplored. In the spring period, the employees of the local nature reserve detected a large number of maternity dens. It is a new site that can be considered another polar bear maternity ward in our part of the Arctic,” Mordvintsev noted.


During aerial monitoring, researchers tracked the condition and number of polar bears on the islands in the ice-free season.


“We worked in October, a month when there is no ice. We counted more than 60 animals, both single males and females with one-year-old, two-year-old cubs and those born this year. All of them are in perfect condition and well-fed,” the expert said.


Joint work will continue on the islands with the Medvezhyi Islands State Nature Reserve, Lenskiye Stolby National Park and the Institute of Biological Issues in the Cryolithic Zone of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Siberian Branch.


“Next year, we plan to visit the same islands when females will be leaving their dens. We will study the number and location of the dens, the number of newborn cubs and the condition of the females. It is an exciting work which needs to be conducted every year,” Mordvintsev concluded.