An apparently hungry polar bear has been raising concerns in Longyearbyen, the main settlement on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard that’s administered by Norway. Local authorities thought they’d chased the bear out of town, but this week the bear was back.
“We’re asking people to be very careful,” Governor Kjerstin Askholt repeated in a new statement issued by her office this week. At that point, officials said they did “not have a full overview” of where the bear actually was. It was last seen on Saturday near some hytter (holiday cabins) in Bjørndalen, with sightings reported both on land and in the sea.
The bear first started wandering around in the town itself on Christmas Day but was chased out by helicopter towards the Longyearbyen glacier. By Friday, however, the bear was back in town.
Askholt said she and her staff had evaluated trying to sedate the bear and move it far from the town by helicopter, but conceded they lacked “professional staff with adquate competence” to carry out such an operation during the Christmas holidays.
Then they tried to chase the bear away again, “preferably all the way down to the Van Mijenfjord,” Askholt wrote, but bad weather thwarted those plans over the weekend. Her office was issuing “polar bear updates” on its website but had not managed to locate and confine the bear by Monday afternoon.