Seeing polar bears is the highlight and dream of most visitors to the Svalbard archipelago. But also experiencing nature and spending a night in the middle of the high arctic is on the bucket list of many. Actually two wonderful aspects for an unforgettable experience in the Arctic. But when the two things happen together, the dream quickly turns into a dangerous situation for both sides. This is what happened this Monday morning, with a sad outcome.
A polar bear broke into a camp of 25 tourists early Monday morning, according to Sysselmester, the official Norwegian representatives on Svalbard. In the process, the bear injured a 40-year-old French woman on the arm. The guides tried to drive away the bear with shots and also shot at the animal. The bear then fled and the tour management informed the sysselmester. “The governor received a message at about 8:30 and sent the helicopter in response,” Chief Superintendent Stein Olav Bredlin says in a press release. The woman was taken by helicopter to Longyearbyen hospital and examined, where only minor injuries were found, according to a spokesman for the University Hospitals of Northern Norway.
The polar bear, which was chased away by the people in the camp, was later looked for by the species manager and the police to check the condition of the animal. Around 11 a.m., they spotted the bear and tried to observe the animal more closely, Bredlin tells the local newspaper Svalbardposten. It was discovered that the bear had sustained substantial injuries, whereupon it was decided to shoot the animal to prevent further suffering. The case is currently under further investigation by the authorities.
As it became known, this was the second incident with a polar bear within a few days in the area. Already last Tuesday the Sysselmester had to evacuate a group of tourists a little further north, after a polar bear had gone after the food in a tent standing somewhat apart and could not be driven away. At that time it turned out that the group had done everything right, but the bear had shown no fear of the shots from the signal pistols. The group retreated and was evacuated. A day later, the Sysselmester received a message that a bear was on the move in the Russian settlement of Pyramiden. “These are clear reminders that there are polar bears out there, and it’s important that tour operators and others are aware of this danger,” Bredlin explains. For the polar bear, this realization comes too late again.
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
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