Copenhagen, Denmark — A polar bear attacked a camping site on Monday in Norway’s remote islands of Svalbard, injuring a French tourist, authorities said, adding that the wounds were not life-threatening. The bear was later killed.
The woman, whose identity has not been released, was part of a 25-person tour group camping in Svesleta, in the central part of the Svalbard archipelago, which is more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of mainland Norway. The camp site was located across a fjord from Longyearbyen, the main settlement in the Arctic Svalbard archipelago.
The authorities responded to the news of the attack, which came just before 8:30 a.m., by flying there in a helicopter, Chief Superintendent Stein Olaf Bridley.
“The French woman was shot in the arm. A frightened polar bear was shot away from the area. No further details of her injuries were revealed. She was taken by helicopter to the hospital in Longyearbyen.”
The main Arctic archipelago newspaper, Svalbardposten, said the victim was a woman in her forties, and quoted local hospital official Solveig Jacobsen as saying the woman sustained minor injuries.
Bridl later told Svalbardposten that the animal was “severely injured” and after a “professional evaluation” was put to sleep, it was not clear how it was killed.
Polar bear warnings are rife in Svalbard. Visitors who choose to sleep outdoors receive stern warnings from authorities that people must carry firearms. Polar bears have killed at least five people since the 1970s. In 2011, a British teenager was killed and the last time a fatal polar bear attack was reported in Svalbard was in 2020, when a 38-year-old Dutchman was killed.
In the aftermath of that attack, a debate ensued over 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 to watch the polar bear around the clock, while others advocate killing all bears that come close to humans.
Norwegian broadcaster NRK said that from 2009 to 2019, 14 polar bears were shot. An estimated 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears live in the Arctic.
In 2015, a polar bear pulled a Czech tourist from his tent while he and others were camping north of Longyearbyen, scratching his back before driving away with gunshots. The authorities later found the bear and killed it.
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