Field report from Svalbard

Published on: 11. September 2023

This report from this year's COAT fieldwork in Svalbard deals with our monitoring of eastern voles and arctic foxes in Svalbard, mainly in the area around Isfjorden.

Field report from Svalbard

Arctic fox pup. Photo: Eva Fuglei

During August a COAT team collected memory cards from the camera trap-based observation system of the Easter European vole in Isfjorden area in Svalbard. The vole population is presently at low density and have apparently gone extinct over the last winter in most areas (including Longyearbyen and Adventdalen) beyond its core areas in Grumantbyen/Fuglefjella and Barentsburg. Strongly shifting temperatures (up to 6oC) and precipitation in late November and early December appeared to cause ground icing and the vole population crash.  A newspaper article about this has just appeared in Svalbardposten.

Easter European vole. Photo: Nigel G. Yoccoz

COAT researchers also just returned from the second round (walking 2x150 km) where they collected camera traps that was mounted on arctic fox breeding dens in June/July. There is good news from the breeding data. More than half of the dens were occupied with pups this summer and that is more than average compared to our time trend (27 years) in Adventdalen and Sassendalen. We cooperate with the field inspectors of the Governor of Svalbard, that collected the cameras we had on dens in Kongsfjorden/Brøggerhalvøya. All pictures will be analyzed during the autumn to get an overview of this year’s breeding success of the arctic fox in these areas.

Lookout in Isfjorden. Photo: Eva Fuglei