[Show abstract][Hide abstract]ABSTRACT: Vitamins A (retinol) and E (α-tocopherol) are dietary vitamins, essential for, e.g., growth and development, reproduction, and immune function. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) have been found to be related to vitamin A and E metabolism. However, few investigations have been published on this health issue in polar bears (Ursus maritimus). The aim of this study was thus to provide reference values for concentrations of vitamin A in liver, kidney cortex, and whole blood and vitamin E in kidney cortex and whole blood from 166 East Greenland polar bears, as well as to assess the relationship between POPs and vitamin concentrations. In addition, vitamin concentrations were analyzed for temporal trends (1994–2008). Results showed vitamin A in liver to be higher in adult bears and the concentrations of vitamin E in kidney and blood to likewise be generally higher in adult bears. In addition, all analyzed contaminant groups were correlated with at least one of the vitamin parameters, predominantly in a negative way. Finally, vitamin A liver concentrations as well as concentration of vitamin E in kidney and blood showed a temporal increase. Together, these results add to the weight of evidence that POPs could be disrupting polar bear vitamin status. However, while the observed temporal increases in vitamin concentrations were likely POP related, the question remains as to whether they stem from influence of contaminants only or also, e.g., changes in prey species. Further studies are needed to tease apart the causes underlying these changes in vitamin concentrations.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract]ABSTRACT: We provide an expansive analysis of polar bear (Ursus maritimus) circumpolar genetic variation during the last two decades of decline in their sea-ice habitat. We sought to evaluate whether their genetic diversity and structure have changed over this period of habitat decline, how their current genetic patterns compare with past patterns, and how genetic demography changed with ancient fluctuations in climate.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract]ABSTRACT: Few studies have investigated the impacts of climate change on polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in East Greenland (EG), where some of the largest rates of sea ice loss have occurred. We used remotely sensed sea ice data to quantify changes in timing of sea ice freeze-up and breakup in EG polar bear habitat between 1979 and 2012. We then quantified movement rates, area use, habitat selection, and distribution and phenology of maternity denning using data from adult female polar bears tracked with satellite transmitters between 2007 and 2010 (n = 7). We compared results to historical data collected from adult females in the 1990s (n = 4). Adult females in the 2000s used areas with significantly lower sea ice concentrations (10-15 % lower) than bears in the 1990s during winter, a pattern influenced by delayed freeze-up in October-December. Adult females in the 2000s were located significantly closer (100-150 km) to open water in all seasons and spent approximately 2 months longer in areas with
[Show abstract][Hide abstract]ABSTRACT: We provide an expansive analysis of polar bear (Ursus maritimus) circumpolar genetic variation during the last two decades of decline in their sea-ice habitat. We sought to evaluate whether their genetic diversity and structure have changed over this period of habitat decline, how their current genetic patterns compare with past patterns, and how genetic demography changed with ancient fluctuations in climate. Characterizing their circumpolar genetic structure using microsatellite data, we defined four clusters that largely correspond to current ecological and oceanographic factors: Eastern Polar Basin, Western Polar Basin, Canadian Archipelago and Southern Canada. We document evidence for recent (ca. last 1–3 generations) directional gene flow from Southern Canada and the Eastern Polar Basin towards the Canadian Archipelago, an area hypothesized to be a future refugium for polar bears as climate-induced habitat decline continues. Our data provide empirical evidence in support of this hypothesis. The direction of current gene flow differs from earlier patterns of gene flow in the Holocene. From analyses of mitochondrial DNA, the Canadian Archipelago cluster and the Barents Sea
[Show abstract][Hide abstract]ABSTRACT: This study reports on the first successful identification of the site of origin of an extralimital walrus in Europe. On 24 February 2010 an adult male Atlantic walrus (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) migrant was instrumented with a SPOT-5 satellite-linked transmitter (SLT) while hauled out on a beach on the Faroe Islands at 62° 15' N/06° 32' W. This SLT transmitted until 5 March during which period the walrus made local movements, likely for feeding. Transmissions were not received during 6-25 March, however, visual observations during this time indicated that the walrus remained at the Faroe Islands. A second transmitter was deployed on the same animal on 25 March 2010 at another site on the islands (62° 16' N/07° 04' W). Activity data collected over 13 days indicated that the walrus hauled out in three different places in the Faroe Islands and used a total of 24% of its time resting on land. On 29 March 2010 the walrus left the Faroe Islands and headed WNW towards NE Iceland. On 2 April it took a NNE course and swam towards Svalbard where the last location was received from a sea ice covered area on 25 April 2010 at 78° 27' N/09° 20' E (i.e. ca. 40 km west of the island of Prins Karls Forland in the western Svalbard archipelago). During 29 March-22 April the walrus swam a minimum distance of 2216 km between the last location at the Faroe Islands and the first location at Svalbard, with an average swimming speed of 4.5 km/h. A genetic analysis indicated that this walrus belonged to the Svalbard-Franz Josef Land subpopulation, thereby confirming that it returned to its site of origin.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract]ABSTRACT: To date no problem-free method exists for the immobilisation of free‑ranging walruses (Odobenus rosmarus). In the period 1989-2001, 69 immobilisations with etorphine HCl were performed by remote darting of 41 individual free-ranging adult Atlantic walruses (O. r. rosmarus), with body masses 633 ‑ 1883 kg, as a rerequisite for the attachment of radio tracking and dive recording instruments, and for studies of metabolism. Ten individuals were immobilised several times. We present data on these 69 immobilisations and evaluate the method. Full immobilisation was achieved in 58 cases (84 %). The animals were insufficiently restrained in 6 cases (9 %) and 5 animals died (7 %) following the immobilisation. The animals were fully immobilised and approachable after 5 min (n = 38, range = 1.9 ‑ 12.4 min, SD = 2.2) with a dose of etorphine of 6.1 μg/kg (range 2.4 ‑ 12.6 μg /kg, SD = 2.4). Induction time was negatively correlated with the dosage of etorphine. Etorphine-induced apnoea lasted 13.7 min (n = 36, range 17.0 ‑ 26.7 min, SD = 5.1) and was reversed by multiple doses of the antagonist diprenorphine HCl. The first dose of antagonist of 12.2 mg (n = 39, range 6.0 ‑ 21.0 mg, SD = 3.5) was administered 8.4 min (n = 38, range 4.7 ‑ 18.0 min, SD = 2.8) after injection of the agonist. The total dose of diprenorphine per animal ranged between 7.7 and 41.7 μg/kg (n = 31, mean = 17.2 μg/kg, SD = 7.5). For some animals blood pH values were measured following the apnoea and reached low levels (min pH 6.8). For animals that were immobilised several times there were no indications of changed sensitivity to etorphine as reflected in unchanged induction times. Mortalities could neither be related to the doses of agonist and antagonist, nor to the times of administration of the drugs. From this (n = 69) and other (n = 103) studies involving etorphine immobilisation of walruses (both Atlantic and Pacific) the overall success rate is 83 % (8 % casualty rate). We conclude that the combination etorphine‑ diprenorphine is suitable for both single and multiple immobilisations of walruses provided that (a) a casualty rate of 7-8% is acceptable (b) the antagonist diprenorphine is administered fast and well into a tissue with good blood irrigation, and (c) the animal is promptly intubated endotracheally to facilitate the restoration of breathing after drug-induced apnoea.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract]ABSTRACT: We review the management of Atlantic walruses (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) past and present in the four range states—Canada, Greenland, Norway and Russia—which have permanent populations of Atlantic walruses. Populations in all four countries have been depleted, although the extent of depletion is not well known. Inuit in Arctic Canada and Greenland hunt Atlantic walruses for subsistence while they have been protected at Svalbard (Norway) since 1952 and in the western Russian Arctic since 1956. Since the second half of the 20th Century Canada and Greenland have increased protection of their walrus. Generally the number of walruses landed in Canada is governed by the number of hunters and/or people in the settlement and not by stock-specific quotas. Although quotas have been set in few communities, it is not known if they are adequate to prevent overhunting. A quota system for walrus hunting in Greenland began in 2006. The current control system is largely effective in ensuring the quotas are applied and that reporting is correct. Greenland currently sets quotas based on recommendations from scientific assessments using recent population estimates to allow population growth from a depleted population. A challenge with respect to managing walrus hunting remains the variable and sometimes high rates of lost animals. Since the 1960s changes in socio-economics in hunting areas of Arctic Canada and Greenland (and the use of snowmobiles instead of dog sleds in Canada) have led to a general decrease in interest in hunting of walruses and reduced harvest on walrus stocks in these countries. Although there is an active ongoing cooperation between Canada and Greenland scientists regarding assessments of shared populations of walruses currently there is no formal agreement between the two range states on co-management of shared stocks. Protection of walrus from other anthropogenic impacts generally focusses on large-scale industrial activity. The level of protection afforded to walrus habitat in many areas depends entirely on the rigor with which the Environmental Impact Assessments are conducted. Basic information on walrus such as numbers and stock discreteness is often lacking and sufficient lead-time is required to collect baseline data. Moreover, although most environmental protection legislation considers ‘cumulative impacts’, practical application remains problematic. The effectiveness of environmental protection regulations depends on industry compliance and the management authorities’ ability to enforce compliance. Because walrus are found in remote locations, enforcement remains a challenge. Increased human activity allowed by the current change in distribution and quality of arctic sea ice poses new threats to walrus if not well regulated. International agreements have varying importance for management within and among member states. Regulations governing international trade serve to identify illegally obtained products and to encourage range states to have a sustainable quota system. International cooperation in information sharing has had clear benefits for management of walruses in the past. The maintenance and expansion of these international efforts will improve the management of Atlantic walruses in the future.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract]ABSTRACT: Physiological studies involving the use of isotopic water required chemical restraint of free-ranging walruses (Odobenus rosmarus) for several hours. In August 2000, six male walrus (total body mass: 1050–1550 kg) were immobilized in East Greenland by remote delivery of 8.0–9.8 mg of etorphine and subsequently restrained for up to 6.75 h by administration of medetomidine. The effects of etorphine were reversed with 10–24 mg diprenorphine. After termination of the etorphine-induced apnoea, lasting an average of 15.8 min (SD = 9.7, range = 9.5–35.2 min, n = 6), the animals were initially given 10–20 mg medetomidine intramuscularly. The initial dose was further augmented by 5 mg at intervals of 5 min. In two cases, when medetomidine was administered through a catheter inserted in the extradural vein, the animal became instantly apnoeic and regained respiratory function only after intravenous injection of the prescribed dose of the antagonist atipamezole and of the respiratory stimulant doxapram. After an average of 3.5 hours of immobilisation, rectal temperature began to increase and it is conceivable that this is the factor that will ultimately limit the duration of immobilisation. The animals became conscious and fully mobile shortly after an intravenous injection of a dose of atipamezole approximately twice the mass of the total dose of medetomidine given during the procedure followed by 400 mg of doxapram. It is concluded that medetomidine appears to be a suitable drug for chemical restraint of walruses for time-consuming procedures following initial immobilisation by etorphine. With animals of total body mass around 1,000–1,500 kg, the drug should be given intramuscularly in 10–20 mg increments (total mass 10–60 mg) until the breathing rate falls to approximately 1 min -1 . At this level, breathing is maintained and animals do not respond to touch or injection.