Copenhagen, Denmark — A polar bear attacked a campsite in Norway’s remote Arctic Svalbard Islands on Monday, injuring a French tourist, authorities said, adding that the wounds were not life-threatening. The bear was later killed.
The woman, who was not identified, was part of a tour group of 25 people who camped in Sveasletta, in the central part of the Svalbard archipelago, which is more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of the Norwegian mainland. The site was across a fjord from Longyearbyen, the main settlement in the Arctic Svalbard archipelago.
Authorities responded to the news of the attack, which came just before 8:30 a.m., by flying there in a helicopter, Chief Inspector Stein Olav Bredli.
“The French woman sustained injuries to one arm. Shots were fired at the polar bear, which had been chased from the area,” he said. Further details about her injuries were not disclosed. She was flown by helicopter to the hospital in Longyearbyen.
The main newspaper in the Arctic archipelago, Svalbardposten, said the victim was a woman in her 40s and quoted local hospital official Solveig Jacobsen as saying the woman had minor injuries.
Bredil later told Svalbardposten that the animal was “severely injured” and was put to sleep after “a professional assessment”. It was unclear how it was killed.
Svalbard is littered with warnings about polar bears. Visitors who choose to sleep outside will receive stern warnings from authorities that people must carry firearms. At least five people have been killed by polar bears since the 1970s. A British teenager was killed in 2011, and the last time a fatal maiming of a polar bear in Spitsbergen was reported was in 2020, when a 38-year-old Dutchman was killed.
After that attack, there was a discussion about whether people should be allowed to camp in tents, but no ban has been decided.
Some residents of Spitsbergen, which is home to more than 2,500 people, want to polar bear watch around the clock, while others advocate the killing of all bears that come close to humans.
From 2009 to 2019, 14 polar bears were shot, Norwegian broadcaster NRK said. An estimated 20,000-25,000 polar bears live in the Arctic.
In 2015, a polar bear dragged a Czech tourist out of his tent while he and others camped north of Longyearbyen, clawing on his back before being driven off by gunfire. The bear was later found and killed by authorities.
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