Polar Biology

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 27–39 | Cite as

Site fidelity of Svalbard polar bears revealed by mark-recapture positions

  • Karen LoneEmail author
  • Jon Aars
  • Rolf Anker Ims
Original Paper


Quantifying the degree of site fidelity in polar bears’ (Ursus maritimus) use of denning and mating areas in spring is of considerable interest for both basic and applied purposes. We analyzed 276 spring-to-spring movements (displacements) of 178 polar bears obtained from mark-recapture in the period 1987–2010 in Svalbard, Norway. Male and female subadults and adults showed site fidelity (only subadult females non-significantly) when their movements were compared to a scenario of random movements between all capture locations. The median observed displacement was 47.6 km (bootstrapped 95 % CI: 38.6–57.8 km), significantly smaller than the median potential displacement for random movements of 206.3 km (bootstrapped 95 % CI: 187.3–219.6 km). Subadult females tended to have the longest displacements, followed by adult males and adult females. However, large individual variation both in displacement distances and recapture frequency tended to blur age and sex differences. Analysis restricted to one movement for each bear showed that the difference between adult males and adult females was small and non-significant. This indicates that findings based on telemetry, which is almost always restricted to females, may be relatively representative of the whole adult Barents Sea population in the spring season.


Ursus maritimus Philopatry Displacement Age and sex effects Arctic Movement 



This paper is based on 24 years of capture-mark-recapture efforts in Svalbard, and we would like to thank all who have been involved with the Norwegian Polar Institute’s polar bear monitoring program in the period 1987–2010, especially former program leaders Øystein Wiig and Andy Derocher, and Magnus Andersen that has been involved in data collection from year 2000. Thanks to John-André Henden and Harry P. Andreassen for comments on the manuscript. The comments of Martyn E. Obbard, Matthew A. Cronin, and one anonymous reviewer greatly improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Norwegian Polar InstituteFram CentreTromsøNorway
  2. 2.Department of Arctic and Marine BiologyUniversity of TromsøTromsøNorway

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