Skiers shot polar bear on Svalbard

Two skiers with dogs said they felt forced to shoot a polar bear on Svalbard Thursday evening when it ran towards them while they were out trekking over a wide-open stretch of snow and ice. They viewed it as an attack, and shot the bear at close range.

Two skiers claim they felt forced to shoot this polar bear Thursday evening as it ran towards them and appeared to be on the attack. PHOTO: Sysselmannen på Svalbard/Arild Lyssand, Police Chief Inspector

Two skiers claim they felt forced to shoot this polar bear Thursday evening as it ran towards them and appeared to be on the attack. PHOTO: Sysselmannen på Svalbard/Arild Lyssand, Police Chief Inspector

The shooting occurred at Isbukta, on the southeastern island of Spitsbergen in Norway’s Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. Newspaper Svalbardposten described the site as being about 160 kilometers from the city of Longyearbyen.

Polar bears are a highly protected species and any such shootings immediately involve the local authorities. Officials from the office of the Svalbard governor (known as sysselmannen) were notified of the shooting at about 8:30pm Thursday.

Two police officers and one staff member from the governor’s office’s environmental division flew to the scene to investigate. It was the second time in a month that an aggressive bear ended up being shot on Svalbard.

The skiers were two young men from Gjøvik in southern Norway who had started a 600-kilometer expedition over Svalbard on March 24, according to newspaper Oppland Arbeiderblad,. They each had a dog with them and reported that they first fired two warning shots at the bear from distances of 100 and then 50 meters.

When the bear continued to run at a rapid pace towards them, “we chose to shoot it,” they wrote on their Facebook page. Officials measured the distance at that point at just 18 meters.

The skiers, who later set up camp near the dead bear, opted to continue their trek after the incident. A friend told Oppland Arbeiderblad that their expedition had been planned for more than a year and that the two “are just ski-happy guys, not big game hunters.”

The bear was said to be young and weighed 119 kilos. Local authorities said there were no indications suggesting the incident was not a case of self-defense.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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