Polar bear shot after early morning attack on French tourist camping in Svalbard

There was another polar bear attack on Svalbard this morning, similar to others in previous years. As usual, the body condition of the bear was not mentioned (whether fat or thin) and photos of it were not published. The woman survived, the bear did not.

This time, the location is Sveasletta, opposite Longyearbyen on the west coast of Spitzbergen. A French tourist, probably there to see the glaciers in the fjord.

According to the Barents Observer (8 August 2022), see headline above:

“The Governor was alarmed just before 08.30 this morning, and went to the scene with helicopter,” informs Stein Olav Bredli, Chief Superintendent with the Governor’s office.

The woman, who was wounded in the arm by the attacking polar bear, was one of 25 people staying at a tent camp in Nordfjorden on the northern shores of Isfjorden. She is currently at the hospital in Longyearbyen and is not seriously wounded. 

Bredli said shots were launched and the polar bear was severely wounded. The police officers arriving to the area later decided to kill the bear.

They will try to blame this on lack of sea ice, of course, because ice conditions are indeed low around Svalbard (as they usually are at this time of year), but not the lowest they’ve ever been (see graph below).

There hasn’t been ice on the west coast since March/April but bears easily walk over the island at the narrow points from the east coast, were there was abundant ice until at least early June (see below):

However, the sad truth is that polar bears are always looking for an easy meal even if they are in good condition. And we already know from the report from polar bear scientists working in Svalbard that most bears they encountered this spring were in good condition.

This was another morning attack, hard to tell in this case whether the woman was still in a tent or not, or whether the attack took place close to the 8:30 a.m. call for help or hours earlier. However, the fatal attack in late August 2020 took place in the middle of the night (about 4 a.m.), while the man was sleeping in a tent. The 17 year old Eton schoolboy killed by a bear in August 2011 in Svalbard was similarly attacked during the night while in a tent, and so was the American hiker who was severely injured by a bear on the northern tip of the Labrador coast in late July 2013 (Crockford 2015).

References

Crockford, S.J. 2015. A harrowing encounter. Range Magazine, Spring issue. Excerpt here.

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