Polar bear problems onshore in Svalbard before prime feeding season

At the end of March there were two polar bear incidents on the same day in Svalbard, where one bear trashed a holiday cabin. Think a door or a window can keep out a polar bear? Think again!

Here is how the 25 March incident that damaged the cabin pictured above was described (27 March 2021, IcePeople), with a photo of the offending bear:

A polar bear broke into the emergency room of the cabin area at Fredheim on Thursday afternoon, damaging a window and interior furnishings, before it was chased away by a tour group visiting the historic site, according to The Governor of Svalbard.

The break-in, first reported Saturday by Svalbardposten, occurred while two field inspectors living at the station were away.  Karoline Tveråen, a member of the four-member tour group, told the newspaper the bear was easily frightened by the snowmobiles as they approached the cabin.

The governor’s office sent one of its helicopters to the site, but was unable to locate the bear, according to Svalbardposten. The encounter at the cabin about 60 kilometers northeast of Longyearbyen came hours after a bear was seen near several kilometers east of town and was chased into the mountains northeast of town.

The other incident, mentioned in the account above, involved another bear at another location on the same day (see map below for location):

Officials are trying to chase a polar bear visiting Todalen on Thursday morning away from the valley about 10 kilometers southeast of Longyearbyen where numerous cabins are located and spring travellers visit, according to The Governor of Svalbard.

Initial efforts to chase it south were thwarted when the bear returned and approached the landfill at the east end of town, according to a midday update. Attempts are now being made to chase the bear northwest via Hiorthhamn.

“The Governor received a report at 9:15 a.m. today a report that a polar bear has been observed in the vicinity of the cabin area in Todalen,” a statement by the governor’s office notes. “The governor is on its way with a helicopter, snowmobiles and cars. We ask people not to visit the area.”

Svalbardposten reported shortly after noon that snow and poor visibility in the area where complicating efforts to track and chase the bear, but it initially appeared it had ventured away from the cabins. However, it returned and approached the east end of town, resulting in officials from the governor’s office to redirect its push of the animal northwest through Hiorthhamn.

At 3:45 p.m. the governor declared mission accomplished…for the moment.

Ice conditions at the time were typical for recent years: heavy ice on the east side of the archipelago, virtually none on the west coast. Last year was an exception, with significant ice to the south and west in early April. Longyearbyen is fairly easily accessed by bears from the east, over land. Fat ringed and bearded seal pups should be available for polar bears starting in the next few weeks.

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