Northern highlights

Simon Mackie
29 November 2007

Category: News


Ulu and her cub

Ulu (top) and her cub. Photograph: Rune Dietz

So far, the news is all good for Ivik, Nuka and Ulu, our three polar bears collared off the coast of Greenland.

You can see on the tracking maps that over the summer of 2007 they have all been very active, moving hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away from where the team first spotted them. Eight months later and the satellite collars are still successfully transmitting.

Ivik and Ulu in particular travelled huge distances, and initially followed a similar north-eastern path. Dr Erik Born, who led the collaring team, says the bears were following the ice edge, which is a good environment for hunting. Polar bears can smell prey from tens of kilometres away, which as well as seals can include walruses and even narwhals, which the bears strike as they surface for air.

How far did they go?
By the end of June 2007, Ivik was as far east and even further north than Svalbard, where the bears in the earth movie were filmed. Ulu didn’t get quite as far north but made a large eastern loop to within 100km of Svalbard’s southern tip. Recently she's returned roughly back to where she was first collared.

Dr Born explained that there has been more sea-ice in this region over the summer than in recent years (although the trend is a reduction in sea-ice), enabling the bears to travel further. Remember too that Ulu isn’t alone. Her young cub will have been by her side for the whole journey across vast tracts of icy wilderness.

Nuka didn’t travel as far east as the other bears, staying relatively close to Greenland’s coast. Don’t be fooled into thinking she didn’t go far though. The straight line distance from her most southerly to most northerly location is around 700km, further than Switzerland is away from England! She probably found very good hunting and didn’t feel the need to venture as far as Ivik and Ulu.

What are they doing now?

The latest positions for both Ivik and Nuka are inland and no longer on the sea-ice. Their lack of movement probably means they have dug dens in the deep snow and are staying put. In the case of Nuka this is very exciting - Dr Born thinks she may be pregnant for the first time! If so, she will emerge with between one and four healthy cubs after around five months underground.

Ivik’s den is around 900km further north than Nuka’s, where conditions are likely to be more severe. Because she’s old for a polar bear, estimated to be around 25 years, Dr Born doesn’t expect Ivik to have any more cubs. She may just be sheltering from the storms and temperatures in a temporary den. This is quite common behaviour and with temperatures plummeting to -25ºC it’s very sensible. However, only time will tell if she is in a maternity den or not.

Can hunters find our bears?
Each year, a small number of polar bears are legally hunted under a quota system by licensed Greenlanders, for who subsistence hunting is a way of life. The love earth team were concerned about showing bear and den locations on the tracking maps. This is why we work with experts such as Dr Born. He explained that under the hunting regulations it is forbidden to dig out, disturb or kill denning bears. Furthermore, cubs and their accompanying mothers are completely protected according to the rules. We have taken the appropriate advice and precautions for all the animals tracked on this site.

Next steps
We can’t be certain that Nuka is indeed going to be a mum, but the signs are good. Keep an eye on the tracking maps for any movement – is Ivik in a temporary den or a maternity den and where next for Ulu and her own young cub?



3 December 2007, 12:29PM

Many thanks for sharing the bear story, Simon.

love earth team - Simon

4 December 2007, 4:04PM

Glad you enjoyed the update Maia. It's incredible to think of the distances the bears can travel as they search for food. Let's hope that Dr Born is right and that Nuka will become a mum soon.

Steve Hurst

4 December 2007, 6:09PM

Facinating article, great to see that the tracking devices are hanging in there. How long will you keep tracking these bears?

love earth team

7 December 2007, 12:15PM

Thanks, Steve. If all goes well and the tags don't come off, we'll be tracking these polar bears up to around October 2008. Keep an eye on the site for regular updates on their movements!


25 December 2007, 5:40PM
trying to make the world a better place


9 January 2008, 9:08PM

I hope Nuka is going to be a mum!

Let's end Oil

11 January 2008, 7:04PM

I love bears. We need to protect the bears. We need to bring scientists and entrepreneurs together to put an end to the tyranny of Oil.

Chloe -xx

14 January 2008, 2:49PM

I Think That All This Fiction Is Really Intresting I Love Pola Bears There My Favourite Animals Ever.xx


14 January 2008, 3:58PM

Thanks so much for posting these updates. Really interesting. Keep them coming!


15 January 2008, 5:12PM

Great articles. Was lead to this site by the totally cute picture of a polarbear dozing and her baby standing on her side at I guess that bear is Ulu.

Wishing those bears well.


25 January 2008, 4:30PM

save the bears


26 January 2008, 9:51AM

Great articles, great photos and I hope that people wouldn't just react to cute pictures and interesting stories, but love and care for any kind of animals and realize that we need to save them all - they are the main and the most! important part of the Earth.


28 January 2008, 7:46PM

Glad the tracking is going well, hope nuka has a successful pregnancy,I saw polar bears in Churchill, Canada the other year and they are impressive to say the least.


30 January 2008, 9:41AM

Hope we can track this time next year and not lose them.


1 February 2008, 12:22AM

i surf ramdonly and hit upon this article while going into it is a very interest article. would find time to read more. thank you.


5 February 2008, 8:53AM

keep the bear safe, they deserved to live and breed, just like us.Dr. Born and all that's behind doing all these,wonderful job(keep it up)hope the bear have more cubs.may we have good news this summer.


15 February 2008, 9:51PM

I have not spent long on the site so this comment may be a little premature but whilst I enjoyed reading about the Polar Bears I felt it would have been nice to have been offered a link to a complete fact file about Polar Bears (such as you might find in an encyclopaedia). If the information does exist on the site I haven't found it yet. Failing that perhaps you could offer an external link?

Best Regards


16 February 2008, 11:57PM

I fasinated by the mind adventure your Bear tracking programe does its thrilling


19 February 2008, 8:26AM

looks to me like your team have got what it takes but I am concerned about poaching - when does a poacher go by the rules of the humane -let's hope these predators (poachers - that is)get an education and become human beings instead of leeches of life and environment and let all species co-exist - here's to you guys - you're the best

Thor Hjarsen, biologist

22 February 2008, 2:46AM

Hi there

Great information about the polar bears in Greenland. Conservation status for polar bears in Greenland is still very concerning. Hunting quota in Greenland is almost double (140 bears) the amount recommended by Erik Born (80 bears). This week a hunters seminar has just ended in Nuuk and apparently the Greenlandic homrule will follow wishes to increase polar bear quotas in Greenland. So it may be feared that the quotas set for 2007-2009 will be changed. WWF Danmark has issued various reports on Greenland:


26 February 2008, 9:49PM

I love this blog! If you want to see my blog go to .


9 March 2008, 8:09PM

It's really great to have the opportunity to see where they go, when and why…
Thank you so much!
I hope this will go on for the next years too.

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