Tracks in the snow

The snow is very exciting. Often when we're out, we see different tracks in the snow. These tracks can be anything from wing marks from two male ptarmigans fighting a hard battle for territory, or a ptarmigan hunting for food.

Eva Fuglei on snowmobile in the distance

"The mother ptarmigan" Eva looking out for the ptarmigan counter. The tracks are from a wandering polar bear. Photo: Silje-Kristin Jensen / Norwegian Polar Institute

Fox tracks in snow

Fox tracks are common in the mountain slopes. Sometimes we can hear them barking. Photo: Cecilie von Quillfeldt / Norwegian Polar Institute

Ptarmigan tracks in snow

Fresh ptarmigan tracks is a clue that a ptarmigan may be close by. So we stand still, looking and listening for it. Photo: Kine Hokholt Bjelland / Norwegian Polar Institute

Sliding tracks down a mountain slope, made by a polar bear

Sliding tracks down the mountain slope, made by a polar bear. It's normal for polar bears to slide down the slopes instead of walking. Photo: Eva Fuglei / Norwegian Polar Institute

New snow covers all tracks, and sometimes we cannot see who have been visiting.

A few days ago we were working in a beautiful valley called De Geerdalen. We had worked our way through the valley when we discovered tracks in the snow at the last counting points. These were not just any tracks, not grouse tracks – could it be fox or Svalbard reindeer? No, these were too big … the polar bear had been here.

The tracks were leading up to one of the counting points where one of the girls was positioned. We tried the radio, but were unable to establish contact. "The mother ptarmigan" Eva had to go take a closer look and make sure everyone was OK. These were fresh tracks. Could the polar bear still be around? But the tracks were probably from the day or night before, so this bear was probably somewhere else now.

Maybe it was just playing around on the mountain side. It had in fact slipped on its backside down the steep mountain slope before wandering off in search of food.

The radio problems turned out to be just a turned off device. It served as a reminder to check our equipment regularly.