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Where there's polar bear there's food?
Aloha Matt! Wondering why Svalbard is the polar bear capitol. Is it because there is plenty of food? What do the polar bears eat in Svalbard? I would have LOVED to have seen a polar bear when I was up in the Bering Sea in April. The closest I got was the stuffed one at the airport in Anchorage ;)...
Polar Bears in Svalbard

Maggie,

Sorry this reply is so late. We had trouble getting the modem and connection up and running here at Kapp Linne and I have been putting in some monster days with serious hiking. I logged about 18 miles yesterday!

Anyway, the bears, I've learned spend most of there time on the eastern shores where there is still some sea ice. Like at other arctic habitats, they hunt primarily seals, waiting patiently near breathing holes and then pouncing and or wacking them and pulling them up to eat. A great caloric score with lots of meat and fat for the bear, not so good for the seal. The bears, I'm told, occasionally wander great distances over inland to reach other shorelines (I have also read this in a couple wildlife biology research papers). Isfjord during the summer has recently (at the decade level) been ice free (hmm?), but the bears stop by to search for beached seal, fish or whale carcases. It will be a rae event if we see a bear, but this team saw a bear walking around IN CAMP two years ago, so it happens.

My educated guess as too why there are so many bears in Svalbard is because there is good seal habitat on the east side, prominent sea ice year round (but it's thinning and breaking up with more frequency) and there is a intensive, well implement conservation programme here in Svalbard. I hope this is useful! Thanks for the question.

Matt