This year's expedition was difficult due to bad weather and few flights the first two to three weeks. The result, however, was encouraging, even if the expedition as a whole was middling.
The good news is many female bears with cubs were observed. That corresponds well with the finding that 2015 has been a good sea ice year so far.
"Things suggest that the bears have had a good season," said Jon Aars a polar bear researcher for the Norwegian Polar Institute. "Many female bears had litters – 11 out of 20 – which is very good. Other than what we saw from one litter, the cubs were in good shape."
Part of expedition involves capture and recapture, where bears are shot with an anesthetic and put out of action. While the bears are asleep the scientists try to tag bears not previously marked. In addition, a number is painted on the back of the animals so they can be separated from those not captured during the expedition.
The researchers also get an opportunity to see how far the bears have traveled and if they are doing well. Among other things, a variety of samples are taken from them and a number of females have transmitters attached to them. The transmitters are not fitted on males because their necks are so broad the devices would fall off.