Polar bear attack in Svalbard

The Governor of Svalbard is investigating the incident where a 17-year-old British youth was killed and four others were injured when a polar bear attacked their camp near Von Postbreen on Spitsbergen on Friday morning.

Polar bear

Polar bear (archive image). Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

Thirteen people from the British Schools Exploring Society (BSES) were at the tent camp when it was attacked.
“A single polar bear rarely harms more than one person when it attacks,” says Jon Aars, polar bear expert at the Norwegian Polar Institute.

He advises everyone to take precautions when travelling in polar bear territory.

“All polar bears are potentially dangerous to humans, and it’s important to keep that in mind when you’re out in Svalbard’s natural environment,” Aars emphasises.

Lack of food is the most common reason why polar bears attack humans. Polar bears depend on sea ice to hunt for food, and in the summer, long periods with unfavourable ice conditions can reduce the bears’ access to prey, mainly seals. Aars emphasises that he doesn’t know anything about the ice conditions in the area where the attack took place.

The polar bear was shot and has been transported to Longyearbyen. It was a male weighing 250 kilos.