Saturday 17 December 2011

The Australian: Bear facts and polar opposites

A polar bear and her cub on the sea ice near Wrangel Island, Russia.
Picture: Rod Eime
Source: The Australian
SCATTERED across a wide valley on remote Wrangel Island, 16 polar bears were in view from the deck of Russian expedition ship the Spirit of Enderby.

The bears foraged quietly in short-grassed tundra and along the rocky shore, unperturbed by the human interlopers. During a cruise conducted by New Zealand-based Heritage Expeditions through the Russian Arctic at the end of the northern summer this year, we spotted 106 polar bears in six days around Wrangel, Herald and Kolyuchin islands.

The bears were concentrated on the islands because this summer the sea ice, from which they hunt seals, was well to the north. Since our visit, the bears have spread out on the ice as it returned in the northern autumn to resume their seal hunting. They appear to have managed well enough while land-bound; on Wrangel Island, we saw several bears feeding on the carcasses of walrus.

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