High Arctic Wildlife Census
From July 17 to September 10, 2006 I was bird lecturer and part-time charismatic megafauna spotter on Quark Expeditionâ€™s Kapitan Klebnikov from the Chukotka Peninsula to the Thule area of NW Greenland. We traversed the NW Passage south of Victoria Island, then counter-clockwise around Baffin Island, around Devon Island, west side of Ellesmere, then east side of Ellesmere Island and NW Greenland.
Only about 40 bears seen (or less than one a day) in the heart of their range and abundance. A few seen swimming well out at sea. Waters mostly open from Beaufort Sea to Davis Strait. Spent many days in or adjacent to prime ice with no trace of a bear and lots of pressure to spot them.
- Only 3 on crossing 12 miles north of Alaskan Coast in heavy ice.
- None in open waters of Beaufort Sea, Amundson Gulf and Coronation Gulf.
- None in ice of Victoria Strait and Larson Sea (and no seals) east of Victoria Island.
- None in Gulf of Boothia NW of Baffin Island with some excellent sea ice.
- Only 2 in excellent ice of Foxe Basin west of Baffin Island.
- None off SE Baffin, as no ice, and just a few bergs.
- 20 or more in masses of first year ice backed against offshore NE Baffin Island from Cumberland Peninsula north to Pond Inlet. Two females with two cubs each seen.
- One at shore dump at Resolute on Cornwallis Island.
- One at Beechey Island ran off in hills.
- One at major murre and kittiwake colony at Coburg Island, NE of Deven Island.
- Two on ice in Hell Gate passage of SW Ellesmere Island.
- Three off NE Bathurst Island in excellent ice.
- None off E Axel Heiburg Island nor Tanqueray Fjord or Eureka areas of NW Ellesmere.
- None along entire east coast of Ellesmere Island despite great ice cover (but few seals).
- None along entire coast of NW Greenland.
Now thought to number as few as a thousand in Canadian Arctic. We were told of a small colony on an island near Pangnurtung in Cumberland Sound of Baffin Island, but saw none there nor elsewhere off eastern Baffin Island.
- Small groups of 2 and 4 were noted flying by our ship at sea between Resolute and Beechey Island off SW Devon Island, and 2 at Beechey Island.
- Four were found on the Beach at Grise Fjord the only town on Ellesmere Island, but none around any town on Baffin Island.
- Six were noted with a dozen Glaucous Gulls and 15 all adult Long-tailed Jaegers near a seal kill and Polar Bear at Hellâ€™s Gate off SW Ellesmere Island.
- Perhaps 15 were seen in one day in four groups in ice west of Grinnell Peninsula of SW Devon Island and were the only birds seen all day.
- One berg east of Bathurst Island had 20 kittiwakes, a dozen Glaucous Gulls, 2 Sabineâ€™s Gull and 4 Ivory Gulls.
- Three solitary fly-bys while steaming in ice off eastern Ellesmere Island, but none off NE Ellesmere nor NW Greenland.