Polar bears in southern Greenland cause turmoil | Polarjournal

The three polar bears, who had been wandering near the southern Greenlandic village of Qeqertasuatsiaat since Monday, were shot dead by the local bailiff yesterday Friday. According to the information published by the newspaper Sermitisiaq, despite repeated attempts to scare them, the bears repeatedly returned and invaded the village, where they had been foraging on the winter supplies that were stored outside and hung there for drying. In doing so, they have become a danger to the inhabitants, the bailiff defends his action. Two of the animals had been shot on land, and one of the cubs had ran into the fjord, where it was captured and shot. Just Wednesday before, the government official in charge, Amalie Jessen, had assured that there would be no special permit to shoot down the mother bear and her cubs. It is not known whether the police and governmental department had been informed before the shooting and whether consent had been given. Both offices are currently in silence and Amalie Jessen announced that she will publish a statement in due course.

The link leads to the website of the newspaper Sermitsiaq, where a video of the dead polar bears was published.
ATTENTION: The pictures shown in the article and in the video show depictions of violence and can disturb.
PolarJournal is not responsible for the content of the video or the website accessible by link below.


Video footage of local fishermen’s mobile phones shows the bear and her two cubs swimming towards the island where the community is located. Although the animals were scared away, they returned and are now about 500 meters from the village at the remains of a whale. Picture: Bente Johnsen via screenshot

Intrinsically, one thinks that polar bears belong to Greenland like cheese to Switzerland. But in fact, the large land predators are usually only found in the north of the island. The south, which lies partly below the Arctic Circle, is hardly visited by the animals. But every now and then polar bears still migrate far south in search of food. The municipality of Qeqertarsuatsiaat, which is located about 130 kilometers south of the capital Nuuk, has three such furry visitors since Monday. And they create a big swirl that not only attracts the tourism industry, but also reaches into politics.

The three bears, which returned to the island after a deterrent attempt on Monday, have settled near the remains of a whale and are feeding there on the carcass. Essentially, they are strictly protected by law. Still, on Wednesday, Greenland Cruise, a Nuuk-based tourism company, announced a polar bear safari for Thursday. “We will sail to Qeqertasuatsiaat and land at the village. We may then see the polar bears from there,” the company’s owner told Sermitsiaq newspaper. “Of course we will not look for the polar bears and we will follow the rules and the laws.” A spot was also offered to the Ministry of Fisheries, Hunting and Agriculture, so that the tour could be observed ministerial officals. But the ministry has already announced that the bears should be left alone by unauthorized persons. “The ministry asks, among other things, that tourism operators who wish to offer polar bear trips should not disturb the people who are responsible for deterring polar bears and not disturbing polar bears themselves.”

Polar bear mothers take care of their cubs for about two years and teach them everything, including hunting and good feeding places. It is well known that polar bears keep returning to places with abundant food. However, this has more and more potential for conflict with people. Picture: Michael Wenger

Politics is now also concerned with the polar bears of Qeqertarsuatsiaat. Polar bears, which are not scared off by deterring methods, are declared “problem bears”. And exemptions to shoot them may be granted for these bears. Now, however, polar bear mothers with cubs are particularly protected and may not be shot under any circumstances. But a member of parliament from the centrist-populist party “Partii Naleraq” has put a resolution on the agenda in parliament for the start of the autumn session, according to which such an exemption should no longer be necessary in order to be able to shoot problem bears.

“Polar bears with cubs must not be shot.”

Amalie Jessen, Department of Hunting, Greenland’s Ministry of Fisheries, Hunting, Agriculture

But the relevant ministry has already announced its rejection of shooting the bear. “The polar bears are not a danger to the citizens at the moment,” Amalie Jessen, head of hunting, told Sermitsiaq. “Polar bears with cubs must not be shot. If there is a danger to the citizens of Qeqertarsuatsiaat, we will assess our options. A lot depends on the situation when we decide what to do.” For the citizens of the village, the words of Amalie Jessen may not be exactly Soothing, as many feel unsettled by the presence of the bears. But as long as the situation of the bears is known and they are under constant observation, there should be no real danger to the inhabitants.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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