For several years, Pingortitaleriffik (Greenland Institute of Nature) has been collecting data to find out whether there is in fact more than one polar bear population in the vast area of ​​East Greenland. And so it does, is the conclusion of the new research, which will be published on Friday 17 June in the journal “Science”. With researchers from the USA and Norway, Pingortitaleriffik has flown coasts and fjords in East Greenland from Prins Christians Sund in the south to Cape Morris Jessup in the north to tag polar bears and take biopsies (tissue samples) from them. One of the researchers behind the study says that the population has been an important part of uncovering the new population. – The prisoners from East Greenland have always shown that there are polar bears along the entire coast, and we found the bears exactly where the prisoners said we should lead. What is new is that these polar bears do not mix with the other polar bears in the large population in Central and Northeast Greenland, says department head in the Department of Mammals and Birds, Fernando Ugarte to Sermitsiaq.

AG- It is also interesting that the vast majority of polar bears caught in Ittoqqortoormiit, Tasiilaq and South Greenland come from the large population in Northeast Greenland, and not from the new, small population in Southeast Greenland.  It turns out that the population in Southeast Greenland is genetically the most distinct of the world’s polar bear populations, and it seems to be adapted to the extreme conditions in Southeast Greenland, where it only has the opportunity to hunt sea ice a few months of the year. Stays more “at home” than other stocksSatellite tracking of adult females in the period 2015-2022 shows that the polar bears in Southeast Greenland, in contrast to polar bears in other populations that hunt in large areas, mostly stay “at home”. They move on the ice inside the deep fjords or up in the mountains to get to neighboring fjords. It turns out, however, that about half of the animals tracked with satellite transmitters were “caught” in the drift ice in the East Greenland Current and carried more than 200 km south. However, they could “jump off” the ice stream and migrate north and back via land and the ice sheet to the fjords they came from.

The new data were supplemented with similar data collected over a 35-year period during various studies of polar bears in East Greenland. In addition, tissue samples collected by the East Greenlandic hunters from their polar bear hunts were included in the genetic analyzes. The population in Southeast Greenland, which only has access to sea ice for a few months a year, survives by chasing from icebergs and clumps of freshwater ice that tumble from glaciers down into the southeast Greenlandic fjords. Another stock must now be managedIn the past, there have been very few studies of polar bears in the area south of Tasiilaq because the area is uninhabited and the weather conditions are extremely harsh and unpredictable at all times of the year. It is now up to the Greenlandic administrative authorities to decide how the newly discovered and distinctive polar bear population in Southeast Greenland should be managed.

For East Greenland, there is an annual quota for how many polar bears may be killed by local hunters with a license. In 2022, the quota is a total of 69 polar bears. The quota is utilized in the three areas: Ittoqqortoormiit / Scorebysund, the Tasiilaq area, and in Southwest Greenland, to which some polar bears are brought with the ice flow from East Greenland south of Nunap Isua / Cape Farewell.

Researchers discover new polar bear population in East Greenland | Sermitsiaq.AG