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The untold unique story of bears who have specialized

In the past two years, my friend Oskar, expedition leader, and I have worked on documenting reindeer hunting behaviour among Svalbard's polar bear population. This behaviour, which is passed on from mother to cubs, seems to be increasing. Polar bears have developed remarkable hunting skills, which have shattered the beliefs humans had about them, such as the inability to run for long.

We have observed that bears can kill two reindeer per day and have recorded over 55 successful hunting locations. We have also observed the bears' different approaches and tactics and recorded ten pages of observations which have helped scientists study polar bears. Like other polar bears, these individuals are opportunistic when it comes to finding food, but they appear fitter, allowing them to run at speeds of up to 8 m/s and for an average duration of 1 minute and 30 seconds. The longest run observed and recorded reached 3 minutes and 50 seconds. Some of the hunts cover more than a kilometre in distance.

This behaviour highlights the resilience of Nature, despite Svalbard's status as the fastest-warming place on Earth, with winter sea ice decreasing by 50% over the last three decades. The polar bear population in the archipelago remains relatively stable. However, scientists caution that environmental changes could pose future challenges for these bears. Conversely, in places where polar bears are hunted, the population is not always stable.

Studying this behaviour raises the question of whether polar bears will disappear if there is no sea ice.

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