WWF carried out a census of polar bear population on Vaigach
The works involved specialists of the A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution. Vaigach Island, located on the border of the Kara and Pechora Seas, was chosen for the research not without reason.
«It is an area of active shipping, numerous oil and gas fields are being developed nearby, the Nenets - one of the indigenous peoples of the north – live here. Thus, the polar bears living here constantly face active human activity. Therefore it is very important to have complete and accurate information about the number of animals, directions and timing of their migration and places of concentration in winter and summer periods to protect animals in the region and prevent potential human – polar bear conflicts, »- said Ivan Mizin, the expert of the Barents office, WWF RU.
During three days of helicopter observations Vaigach Island, south of Novaya Zemlya and the Kara Sea coast near the village of Amderma were examined. During the flights, scientists met 12 polar bears. Using remote injector (air gun, firing syringes with soporific) two polar bears were immobilized - young male and a female.
Both animals were examined in detail - linear dimensions of the body, the age and weight of the animals. The scientists also took samples of hair and blood for further study. Analyses will determine the content of the tissues of heavy metals and other pollutants, illnesses and condition of the bears. A genetic study will determine kinship to the previously surveyed bears from the Kara-Barents Sea and other populations.
A collar with a satellite Argos system transmitter was set on the female bear. It allows to track animal movements in real time - the transmitter reports the position of the bear every three hours. It is expected that it will last up to a year, and then the mount will break under the action of salt water, and the collar will release the animal.
«The use of collars with satellite Argos transmitter system gives us the opportunity to evaluate the daily, seasonal and annual activity and mobility of the polar bear. In this case, the collaring of the female with two yearling cubs will allow to study the seasonal and annual area of the family group in the future. Also we will be able to understand influence of the climate change on the behavior of the animals», - says Senior Researcher, IEE RAS Ilya Mordvintsev.
This year, with the participation of WWF Russia works on evaluation of the size and distribution of polar bears in some areas of the Russian Arctic are conducted from the Barents Sea to the Chukchi Sea. At the moment another expedition takes place - Russian and US scientists are conducting joint air-monitoring of the Alaska-Chukotka population of polar bears and seals. The experts of both countries use thermal imaging and high-resolution digital cameras, installed on board aircraft equipped laboratories. The expedition is planned to be finished in the end of May.