An old acquaintance​

As I wrote in my previous post, it was quite hard to find bears on this trip. However, the one that we saw was a magnificent bear. And most likely an old acquaintance for me. On Fuglesangen we found a mother and cub Polar Bear walking on the shores. Mother quite thin and the fact that she only had one (one and a half-year-old) cub, wasn’t a good sign either. With the lack of ice during the last winter, she probably had difficulties finding enough food to fatten up, which might have already cost her one cub and could likely cost her her other cub as well if she wouldn’t quickly find some food somewhere.

Polar Bear

Back on the ship, I checked some older pictures to test an idea I had. Somehow I had the feeling I had seen this bear before. And, even though I don’t have hard proof, I think I did. Two years ago, I saw a bear in this fjord with a number spray-painted on her bum, and I sent out some emails to scientists. Within a few days, I had a reply from the scientist who marked this female. She was captured the first time in 2007 and will now be around 14 years old. She has been satellite collared several times, and she has spent all her life in the North-west corner of Spitsbergen, right at the place where we found this bear. 

Polar Bear

It was also noted that she was skinny nearly all the time she was seen. Apparently, her strategy is to stay in this corner, that she knows very well by now, sit out the summer and fatten up during winter again. As she is already doing this for 14 years, this is apparently a strategy that works. However, this is only the second time she is seen with a cub. The first time she was seen with a cub, in 2014, and the fate of the cub after its first year is unknown. This year, she managed at least to get one cub to survive for a year and a half, but looking at mom, I’m not sure if she will manage to raise it much further.


Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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