Tourist injured in polar bear attack on Norwegian island

The French woman was part of a tour group of 25 people camping at Sveasletta, in the central part of the Svalbard archipelago.

Polar Bear Warning Sign
Polar Bear Warning Sign

A polar bear has attacked a campsite on Norway’s remote Arctic Svalbard Islands, injuring a French tourist, authorities said.

The woman, who was not identified, was part of a tour group of 25 people camping at Sveasletta, in the central part of the Svalbard archipelago, more than 500 miles north of the Norwegian mainland.

The campsite is across a fjord from Longyearbyen, the main settlement in the Svalbard archipelago.

Authorities responded to the news of the attack by flying out in a helicopter, according to chief superintendent Stein Olav Bredli.

“The French woman suffered injuries to an arm. Shots were fired at the polar bear, which was scared away from the area,” he said.

Authorities said the woman’s injuries were not life-threatening but further details were not disclosed. She was flown by helicopter to hospital in Longyearbyen.

The main newspaper on the Arctic archipelago, Svalbardposten, said the victim was a woman in her 40s, and quoted local hospital official Solveig Jacobsen as saying she was slightly injured.

Mr Bredil later told Svalbardposten that the animal had been “badly injured” and after “a professional assessment” it was put down. It was unclear how it was killed.

Svalbard is dotted with warnings about polar bears. Visitors who choose to sleep outdoors receive warnings from authorities that people must carry firearms.

At least five people have been killed by polar bears since the 1970s, most recently in 2020 when a 38-year-old Dutch man was killed.

After that attack, there was a debate on whether people should be allowed to camp in tents but no ban has been decided.

Some residents in Svalbard, home to more than 2,500 people, want a round-the-clock polar bear watch, while others advocate killing all bears that get 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 as he and others were camping north of Longyearbyen, clawing his back before being driven away by gunshots.

The bear was later found and killed by authorities.

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