Sweden: No half measures

The inaugural Sweden bear expedition finished on a high.

Half of us paddled over to an island to map another bear den; the other half looked for and found more bear scats. We all met on a local mountaintop beauty spot for lunch and a cake to round things off in the field.

Back at base, we went through all the datasheets with Andrea to make sure the data we have gathered are exactly how she needs them. And talking about data, here are some basic stats of the expedition. Over the week of the expedition, we

  • visited 28 bear den sites and mapped 24
  • found 10 scats at 15 bear cluster sites
  • recovered a bear skeleton from a bog for further analysis
  • recovered a valuable transmitter
  • covered over 2,000 km of the study site
  • had two bear encounters and several with moose, capercailie and other interesting wildlife
  • increased Andrea’s den database by between a third and a half (depending on how the rest of the year goes)
  • in one short week gathered scats worth six weeks

Andrea called our contribution “invaluable” and we can all be justifyably proud of perhaps having doubled her den database by the end of the year and collected scats galore for her. This is what citizen science should be like!

No wonder then that our last dinner together was joyous. Gifts were exchanged, kind words spoken and as the sun bathed our expedition base in golden sunlight, we played a Scandinavian lawn game with Andrea making up the rules as we merrily went along.

Thank you to the team, thank you to Andrea for letting us get a glimpse of her life as a bear scientist, thank you to Elfie for keeping us fed so well, and thank you to the bears and the Swedish wilderness for letting us roam in their space.

Andrea has asked us to return and we shall be back.

 

 

Sweden: Summer, moose, bear, beauty

Much has happened over the past three days.

We have mapped countless dens, scoured the woods for bear sign, and covered hundreds of kilometres in three or four groups to do so.

We have become proficient data collectors for Andrea who is pleased with our progress. As a reward, we met at a local beauty spot for a picknick yesterday after a day’s work.  And how beautiful it was – swirling waters, rapids, sunlight trickling through the trees and blueberry pancakes.

We have walked through beautiful flower meadows in the sunshine, across bogs in the drizzle, negotiated our way through pathless forests, treading across thick carpets of moss, lichen and blueberries, perhaps where no human foot has been for centuries – at least this is what it often feels like.

We have seen vast expanses of forests, dusty logging roads, beautiful, hidden lakes and picture-perfect Swedish villages deep in the forest. We have seen capercaillie, moose and, yes, a bear too, crossing the road in front of us as we were driving back from a day’s work.

We have dug a bear skeleton out of a bog to be handed over to the Swedish Veterinary Institute for analysis.

And back at base, where we are looked after very well by Elfie, the datasheets pile up, as do the hair scat samples, to Andrea’s delight. May it all help her in her work to conserve bears in this fascinating part of the world.

Tomorrow is half a day and then data entry. And then it will be the end of this inaugural expedition already. Time flies when you are having fun and I will let the pictures speak for themselves…

Sweden: Ten adults in the rain

“Fascinating how ten adults standing in the rain looking at shit can have such a good time”. This, or something like it, is the quote of the expedition so far.

We met up on Monday and made it to our expedition base in the woods for introductions, a safety briefing, background information and theory and equipment training.

Tuesday was more training and our first winter den survey in one big group – to put everything we’ve learnt so far into practice and to learn as we go.

Today, Wednesday, we started splitting into smaller groups as we get more comfortable with the methodolgy and finding our way around the study site.

So far we’ve had everything from amazing food, to sunshine, drizzle, downpours, to heavy bear scat, digging for bear bones in a water-filled ditch, meeting roe deer and cranes, to getting to grips with datasheets, GPSs, relascopes, denisometres, etc. etc.

Spritis are high, as are exhaustion levels after having spent a day out in the forest.

Tomorrow we are out in smaller groups to cover as much ground for Andrea as we can this week.

Some photo impressions follow:

Sweden: Getting there, sort of

First expedition lesson: Nothing is as constant as the change of plan.

We packed the car to the hilt and drove off with a great plan. Drive to Kiel (northern Germany) and board the overnight ferry to Göteborg (Sweden), get a good night’s sleep and arrive in Sweden fresh for a measly 470 km to the expedition base. The plan was good, the execution poor.

Packed to the hilt

We hit several massive traffic jams and a journey that should have taken six hours, took over ten. We missed the ferry. So no option but to drive past the ferry port and up north into Denmark, cutting east over the famous Öresund bridge that connects Kopenhagen (Denmark) with Malmö (Sweden).

Öresund bridge

So a relaxed journey became a wild ride through the night with a dinghy motel stop for a few hours of sleep. The drive through 720 km of Swedish countryside made up for it, sort of. Trees, trees and more trees. Sunshine. Bullerbü picture-perfect villages. 1800 km and 33 h later and we’re finally here now.

Somewhere on a Swedish road

Tonight is midsummer night, a big night in Sweden. We’re invited to a party and tomorrow we’ll connect with Andrea for a couple of days setting up.

The weather is a pleasant, sunny 20 something. The mosquitoes are out. Come prepared and remember that on expedition nothing is as constant as the change of plan 🙂

Sweden: Opener

Hello everyone. My name is Matthias and I will be your expedition leader for our inaugural Sweden brown bear project.

Matthias Hammer

Our expedition scientists is Dr. Andrea Friebe of our Swedish partner organisation Björn & Vildmark (bear & wilderness).

Dr. Andrea Friebe

And the most important person on the expedition will be our cook, Elfie Weber 😉

Elfie Weber

Elfie and I are packing up as we speak and will travel from Germany to Sweden by car starting tomorrow. We will then meet Andrea at our expedition base and start to prepare everything for the expedition. Once Elfie and I have arrived in Sweden, I will send you another update (and my local phone number too for emergencies).

We hope your preparations are going well too and wish you safe travels. We look forward to meeting you all on Monday.