A polar bear and four wolves, officially listed as protected species in Norway, were all shot to death on New Year’s Day. The polar bear made the mistake of refusing to wander out of the main settlement on Svalbard, while the wolves were killed by hunters as soon as they received controversial permission to all but exterminate a wolf family even though it was roaming in a zone designated for them.
The polar bear, which had been wandering in and near Longyearbyen for the past week, had resisted several attempts to chase it out of town. Local authorities had tried helicopters and other means, but the hungry bear kept returning, apparently in search of food.
Svalbard Governor Kjerstin Askholt cited a lack of staffing during the holiday period with enough competence to drug the bear and transport it out of the area. The seven-year-old male bear was thus shot in the early morning hours of Wednesday since it presented a danger to the people of Longyearbyen.
Meanwhile, several thousand kilometers south in the snow-covered forests of Hedmark (now part of the new fylke known as Innlandet), four wolves were shot to death on New Year’s morning in the space of two hours. “We are very satisfied that two months of preparations yielded such quick results,” the leader of the authoritzed hunt, Arne Sveen, told state broadcaster NRK.
Norway’s conservative government coalition had approved the hunt, while rejecting requests to hunt down two other wolf packs east of Oslo. Proponents of the hunt claimed the wolves were threatening local residents, ranchers and the annual moose hunt that provides fee income to local landowners.
Environmental and animal rights activists were howling over the killings. Several had roamed the area for hours themselves in an act of civil disobedience to disrupt the wolf hunt, which one conservationist called “absolutely disgusting.” A senior adviser for WWF, Marte Conradi, also objected to the polar bear shooting, calling it “extremely sad.” She noted that polar bears are threatened by climate change, with is occurring much faster in the Arctic than anywhere else on the planet.