When it comes to Arctic wildlife, there is one animal that tops list many people’s lists of things they hope to see. The polar bear sits at the top of the food chain in this part of the world and there’s no doubting the fact that they are the undisputed kings of the Arctic wilderness.
Sadly, due to retreating ice, pollution and hunting from humans; polar bear numbers are constantly fluctuating. The latest environmental research suggests that some populations remain constant whilst others are increasing, but around 5 of the 19 groups that we know about are in decline. Scientists predict that by the year 2040 we could be left with just a skirting of ice in the areas where polar bears are seen the most and this will almost certainly have a drastic impact on their numbers.
The best way for us to preserve these animals and their habitats is by learning as much as we can. We hope that by taking part in ecotourism your passion will grow and you will be compelled to join the fight to save Ursus Maritimus.
Whilst we can never guarantee a sighting on any of our trips, there are a few destinations in which spotting these majestic beasts has a very high probability. Here are three of the best places to see polar bears in the wild.
The icy wildernesses found on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen are just perfect for polar bears. In fact, each year there are multiple sightings of bears in this area during the tours that we offer, delighting travellers from all over the world. Specific events range from distance viewings to lone bears coming all the way up to the ship and pressing their paws against the hull. There have also been instances where groups have caught bears during a hunt; immediately enhancing any trip for the better.
Around ten years ago, polar bear numbers in Svalbard (the archipelago to which Spitsbergen belongs) were estimated to be around 3000. It is believed that, due to the unspoilt nature of these islands and limited human population, today’s figure isn’t far off this; making a sighting a real possibility.
When the waters of the Hudson Bay freeze over in November, polar bears can head out onto the ice in search of seals and other Arctic appetisers. However, the lack of ice (and therefore access to their food source) in the summer months drives them inland towards human settlements, looking for something to eat.
The decreasing ice has brought more and more polar bears to towns like Churchill, leading to confrontations between humans and bears which don’t always end well for either party. New initiatives are being put in place to try and prevent the bears from wandering into heavily populated areas, whilst a team of environmental workers have started anaesthetising the creatures if they get too close and airlifting them further north where their natural path would have taken them anyway.
Nevertheless, the Northwest Passage and other parts of the Canadian Arctic remain excellent places to see Nanuk (as they are known by the Inuit community). If you are lucky enough, you may get to witness a polar bear roaming the ice of the Hudson Bay, looking for its next meal.
Polar bear sightings are not quite as common in Greenland but there are still large populations in this area. And it’s no surprise when you consider that the majority of the territory is covered in ice. Having said that, the best chance you have of seeing a polar bear in Greenland is whilst cruising the fjords, inlets and isles around the coastline.
It is the waters around northwest and northeast Greenland where a sighting is most likely to occur, but bears have also been spotted in places such as Ilulissat and Ittoqqortoormiit which feature prominently on our Greenland expeditions. The polar bear is a real symbol of strength in this part of the world; one of the reasons it is used as part of the Greenlandic government’s coat of arms.
If you would like to create a once in a lifetime experience by seeing polar bears in the wild then Fred. can help you make this dream come true. Our knowledgeable team can suggest cruises to give the best chance of a sighting and the operators we work with will provide passionate experts to guide you every step of the way.