Woodfjorden's wildlife

You can register your observations of marine mammals around Svalbard in the Norwegian Polar Institute’s database Marine Mammals Sightings.

Wildlife is varied in Woodfjorden and its surrounding fjords. Polar bears can be seen here all year round, although their presence is more prominent in the spring, because of easier access to prey on the fjord ice. The ice remains here for a long time, creating good habitats for ringed seals – they are dependent on ice to give birth in lairs in the ice and for moulting. In the summer polar bears can often be observed on ice floes in front of the glacier fronts. Each spring there are female polar bears with yearlings in Liefdefjorden and Woodfjorden, which indicates that the area may be a denning area. During the summer, polar bears are often seen searching the islands in Liefdefjorden for bird eggs – a nutritious supplement for the bears.

Bearded seals and ringed seals are a common sight in the fjord. Smaller groups of harp seal can also appear here.

Reinsdyrflya is an area known for its dense population of Svalbard reindeer, although they are not quite as numerous as in previous times. There are approximately 300 reindeer here and in the north and west of Liefdefjorden. In the east of Woodfjorden the number is thought to be at about 150 reindeer.

A rich and varied wildlife is a good source of nutrition for the Arctic fox. It can be found anywhere the food is, especially by the bird cliffs. The fox population around Woodfjorden has always been good in terms of numbers.

In earlier times, several thousand eiders used to breed on the islands in Liefdefjorden, but in recent years the number has been greatly reduced. Breeding is risky because of polar bears that prowl the area. This is also a breeding area also Arctic terns, Arctic skuas, great skuas, glaucous gulls and black-legged kittiwakes. The kittiwake bird cliff in Hornbækpollen is well known, but other, smaller cliffs with kittiwakes occur in the west of inner Woodfjorden and south of Mushamna. Reinsdyrflya is one of Svalbard’s most important breeding sites for king eiders, with an estimated 1000 or more individuals in the area. The red-throated diver can often be found around Reinsdyrflya’s many small lakes., This species is easily recognized in flight by its long neck, which is kept outstretched and slightly curved downwards, while the head is held with a slight upward curve, and also by its loud and monotonous cackling in flight. The grey phalarope can be found in the same places. Pink-footed geese can be found breeding on the islands of Måkeøyane in Liefdefjorden. If you are lucky you may get a glimpse of the rare brent goose, which breeds sparsely in the areas around Woodfjorden. As for terrestrial birds, snow buntings and Svalbard rock ptarmigan can be observed. And, of course, the purple sandpiper is always busy looking for food between the pebbles in the beach zone.

Updated May 2015

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