COPENHAGEN, Denmark – A polar bear attacked a camp on Norway’s remote Arctic islands of Svalbard on Monday, injuring a French tourist, authorities said, with non-life-threatening injuries. Later, the bear was killed.
The woman, who has not been named, was part of a 25-person tour group camping in Sveasletta, in the central part of the Svalbard archipelago, more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of mainland Norway. The camp was located across the fjord from Longyearbyen, the main settlement of the Arctic Svalbard archipelago.
Authorities responded to reports of the attack shortly before 8:30 a.m., with Chief Superintendent Stein Olav Bradley flying in by helicopter.
“The French woman was injured in her arm. The polar bear, which was afraid of the area, was shot at. No further details about his injuries have been released. He was taken by helicopter to Longyearbyen hospital.
The Arctic archipelago’s main newspaper, Svalbardposten, said the victim was a woman in her 40s and quoted local hospital official Solveig Jacobsen as saying the woman suffered minor injuries.
Bredil later told Svalbardposten that the animal was “severely injured” and was put to sleep after a “professional assessment”. It is not clear how it was killed.
Svalbard is full of warnings about polar bears. Visitors who choose to sleep outdoors receive a stern warning from authorities about people carrying firearms. At least five people have been killed by polar bears since the 1970s. A British teenager was killed in 2011, and the last fatal polar bear mauling was reported in Svalbard in 2020, when a 38-year-old Dutchman was killed.
After that attack, there was a debate about whether people should be allowed to camp in tents, but no ban was decided.
Some residents of Svalbard, home to more than 2,500 people, want a 24-hour polar bear watch, while others advocate killing all bears that come close to humans.
Norway’s NRK TV channel reported that 14 polar bears were shot from 2009 to 2019. About 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears live in the Arctic.
In 2015, a polar bear dragged a Czech tourist out of his tent while camping north of Longyearbyen, clawed his back and chased him away with gunfire. Later, the bear was found and killed by the authorities.