We’ve followed dozens of polar bears on the WWF Polar Bear Tracker since it launched in 2003. But few have wandered as far as Kara, a female bear tagged by researchers in Spring 2013.
By fitting polar bears with GPS collars (females only – the collars slip off the males’ larger necks), researchers from the Norwegian Polar Institute can track exactly where the bears of Svalbard go. After years of such work, the researchers get to know many of the individual bears. Sometimes, however, previously unencountered bears appear on Svalbard. Unlike local bears that spend the summers hunting seals in Svalbard’s fjords, these bears may be long-distance wanderers on the sea ice – “pelagic” polar bears.
Most of Svalbard’s polar bears remain on land throughout the summer, a strategy that requires less energy than long-distance roaming. On land, however, there is less food in the summer. Why do bears choose one strategy over the other? Tracking the bears will help NPI answer questions like:
Research over long periods of time is vital to polar bear conservation. By understanding how they use their habitat, what places appear to be important for them and how populations change, only then we can arrange for better protection measures.