Polar bear shot during break-in

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An overly curious and determined polar bear made the mistake of his life when he tried to break into a hytte (cabin) on Svalbard over the weekend. Attempts by the couple inside to scare off the bear failed, and they felt they had no choice but to shoot to kill.

A six-year-old, marked polar bear was shot and killed after trying to break into this hytte on Svalbard. PHOTO: Sysselmannen på Svalbard

A six-year-old, marked polar bear was shot and killed after trying to break into this hytte on Svalbard. PHOTO: Sysselmannen på Svalbard

“They tried throwing lighted candles at the bear and fired four warning shots but it didn’t help,” Arild Lyssand of the sysselmann’s (regional governor’s) office told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) shortly after the dramatic break-in on Sunday.

Lyssand said the man and woman in their 40s were staying at the hytte at Hornsund on Svalbard’s island of Spitsbergen when the bear tried to break in through a window. Like most people on Svalbard, they were armed, and the couple told officials that the bear was halfway through the window when one of them inside finally felt compelled to grab their revolver and fire one shot into the eye of the bear, killing it.

Polar bears are a strictly protected species and this one was the first to be shot on Svalbard in nearly two years. Shooting is only allowed in self-defense and the drama on Sunday will be investigated, but Lars Erik Alfheim of the local sheriff’s office told website Aftenposten.no that there were no signs to suggest Sunday’s incident was not a case of self-defense.

He declined to identify the couple while the investigation was underway, and they will be called in for questioning. Neither the man nor the woman, who live on Svalbard, were injured “but they were shook up by the incident,” Lyssand said.

The dead bear was taken by helicopter to Longyearbyen on Svalbard, where it weighed in at 305 kilos (671 pounds) and measured 2.09 meters long. It was later identified as a six-year-old male in good shape, with sharp claws, healthy teeth and no signs of any illness. Anders Lindseth of the Sysselmann’s office said the bear was not emaciated and had been marked with a microchip, an ear tag and tattoo by researchers at the Norwegian Polar Institute, who had been following its movements.

The last time a polar bear was shot on Svalbard was in 2011, when one broke into the tent of a 17-year-old boy from England who was with a group camping about 50 kilometers from Longyearbyen. The boy was killed and several others were injured.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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