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Seal spotting

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From April 11 to 21, 2014, join a Norwegian Polar Institute and WWF-Canon scientific expedition to collect critical data about Europe’s most westerly polar bear population. The population on and around the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard is facing a future without summer sea ice. See all posts from the expedition here.

I was sitting by the computer transferring some pictures, when something caught my eye, far away from the boat. The ice did not look exactly the same as it did a few minutes ago. Through my binoculars I saw a polar bear, probaly a male, slowly but steady moving towards us. It did not take long before the rest onboard were observing the bear,  more than 1,000 metres away.

The bear sniffed along a crack in the sea ice, searching for seals to catch. Then suddenly I realized it had something in it mouth — a ring seal. The bear was quickly moving the ~60 kg seal away from its breathing hole. Less than one hour later, almost nothing was left for the twenty five glacous gulls which had patiently been waiting for the bear to leave. Just skin and skeleton. Here in front of us, an Arctic drama.

The most common prey for the polar bear is the ringed seal. Other ice-living seals are harp, hooded, banded, spotted and bearded seals. They are all dependant on the sea ice to reproduce and rest. The hooded seal breeds in loose ice and their pups are only nursed for four days – yet their weight increases by three to four times. At the other end is the largest seal species, the walrus, which nurses its pups over more than two years. Arctic is seal heaven for animal lovers.

Walrus, Svalbard. © Tom Arnbom / WWF-CanonWalrus, Svalbard. © Tom Arnbom / WWF-Canon

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