Polar bear attacks tourists on Svalbard

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A group of six tourists out camping on Norway’s northern archipelago of Svalbard was attacked by a polar bear near Fredheim, the local sheriff confirmed on Thursday. They escaped fatal injury, but not the bear, which was shot.

Vidar Arnesen of the local sheriff’s office told newspaper Svalbardposten that one person suffered facial and arm injuries and was sent by rescue helicopter to the hospital in Longyearbyen. The group had been on a combination snowmobile- and ski tour of Svalbard. An investigation into the attack was underway.

Arnesen had no further information on whether others were injured as well, but said the polar bear was shot. Polar bears otherwise are under strict preservation orders, but can be shot when they threaten people.

A polar bear had been sighted almost daily in the area around Fredheim and at Tempelfjorden. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that there are many seals in the area, a food source that attracts the bears.

The attack occurred early Thursday morning at a scenic open area around 60 kilometers northeast of Longyearbyen. Tourists are often taken there for sightseeing on snowmobiles.

There are record numbers of tourists on Svalbard this week in connection with Friday’s total solar eclipse. All have been warned against leaving Longyearbyen without armed guides.

The last fatal polar bear attack occurred 2001, when a camp set up by a British school group was targeted and a 17-year-old student was killed.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund