Polar bear attacks near Danish station in East Greenland | Polarjournal
The headquarters of the Danish special unit “Sirius Patrol” in East Greenland is the station Daneborg. The year-round station has at least 12 residents and is located on an offshore island in the middle of the national park “Avannaarsuani Tunumilu Nuna Allanngutsaaliugaq”. Picture: Michael Wenger

The Danish station Daneborg in Northeast Greenland is the headquarters of the Sirius Patrol. The station is located in the largest national park in the world, where it is also responsible for the protection of polar bears there. But what to do if one of the animals to be protected suddenly turns against its protectors? This is the situation the members of the Sirius Patrol find themselves in after a polar bear has repeatedly invaded the station, injuring one man in the process.

According to a report from the Danish Joint Arctic Command (Arktisk Kommando) in Nuuk on their Facebook page, a polar bear had entered a cabin near the Daneborg station on Monday evening. Three filmmakers were staying in the cabin and were already asleep when the bear entered through an open window. One of the men woke up to noise and looked. In the process, he was attacked by the polar bear and bitten on the hand. His comrades awoke to the cries of pain and together they were able to scare the bear away with flare ammunition, writes Arktisk Command. The injured man first received medical treatment at the nearby station, but had to be evacuated to Akureyri in Iceland, as the station did not have the necessary equipment to better treat his wounds.

The broken window shows where the bear (left) had tried to enter the third time. According to a trace analysis, the bear had first searched the hut thoroughly and had checked the chances for an intrusion at several places. Pictures: Arktisk Kommando via Facebook

The following morning, the bear had returned to the cabin and tried to get in again. The film people who remained there contacted the patrol members, who again managed to scare the bear away, but not for long. In the afternoon he returned and tried again, succeeding in breaking a window. This time it was the film people who were able to scare the polar bear away without anyone getting hurt.

The polar bear population in East Greenland is the one with the largest area distribution of all 19 subpopulations, but the number of animals is unknown. The animals may be hunted by the inhabitants of Greenland by means of quotas. Picture: Michael Wenger

According to Arktisk Kommando, the bear is not an unknown animal. He had visited the station five times earlier, the command wrote. It was therefore decided to declare the animal a “problem bear”. This leaves the Sirius Patrol people free to shoot down the animal the next time it visits the station. Not an easy task for the station members, since they are actually stationed in Daneborg to protect nature and its inhabitants, including the polar bear. But many other options that are tried in other places are not necessarily available to members. Stunning and relocating the bear is on the one hand a very big risk for the bear and on the other hand technically not feasible. Whether the bear has now understood that the station is not a suitable place, however, is rather doubtful. For at present there is hardly any pack ice off the coast, and food for the animals is generally scarce. The high temperatures and the great melting of the ice sheet in the past few days should not play a role for the animal, as polar bears hardly ever go onto the ice sheet and temperatures are currently at average levels (about 8°C). Hopefully, the bear has learned its deterrence lessons and will steer clear of the station in the future.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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