Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research

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Vol. 44, No. 4, 2012

pp. 483-489

Response Behaviors of Svalbard Reindeer towards Humans and Humans Disguised as Polar Bears on Edgeøya

Eigil Reimers and Sindre Eftestøl

Due to observed interactions between Svalbard reindeer (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus) and polar bears (Ursus maritimus) during field work on Edgeøya, Svalbard, we measured response distances for reindeer from a stalking polar bear and improvised five approaches from a person disguised as a polar bear for comparison with human encounters. The alert, flight initiation and escape distances were 1.6, 2.5 and 2.3 times longer, respectively, when Svalbard reindeer were encountered by a person disguised as a polar bear compared to a person in dark hiking gear. Population increase of polar bears on Svalbard and decrease in sea-ice cover in the Arctic region during summer probably results in more frequent interactions with reindeer on the archipelago. Similar reindeer response behavior from encounters with a polar bear and persons disguised as polar bears indicate a predator-prey relationship between the two species on Edgeøya.