Polar bears on Svalbard

Svalbard polar bears threaten Scottish geese

An Arctic expedition has confirmed fears that polar bears are preying on the eggs of barnacle geese who migrate to the Solway Firth each winter.

The bears have turned to the eggs after being stranded on land in the summer months as a result of diminishing ice.

Zoologist Brian Morrell, of the WWT Wetlands centre at Caerlaverock on the north Solway coast, recorded the increased polar bear activity while monitoring a barnacle goose colony on the Arctic island of Svalbard.

He said 10 polar bears were seen roaming the colony, with one bear eating more than 1,000 eggs at one sitting

Svalbard’s ice giants

The Svalbard Archipelago is one of the most pristine and spectacular landscapes in the High Arctic. Two years running, using a yacht as their base, the Frozen Planet team took advantage of the 24 hour sunlight of the Arctic summer to film the explosion of breeding birds and of course polar bears.

Stalked by a polar bear on Svalbard

The only really safe way to get close to a polar bear is to be on a skidoo or boat, ready for a quick getaway. Polar bears have a taste for eggs so Arctic terns don’t welcome them in their colonies. Cameraman John Aitchison and his guide Steinar were filming in a tern colony when they saw a bear between them and their boat. The polar bear has a reputation as the only animal on land to actively hunt humans and they can easily outrun a person, so they couldn’t take any chances.

Polar bears threaten endangered Barnacle geese

Scientists fear that hungry polar bears in Svalbard are jeopardising a conservation success story by eating the eggs of barnacle geese as the lack of Arctic ice is preventing the bears from successfully undertaking their usual seal hunting.