A polar bear that had been sedated and airlifted out of a populated area on Svalbard died last week while being flown by helicopter to an Arctic wilderness area on the Norwegian-run archipelago. Wildlife authorities were at a loss to explain the second polar bear death in as many months.
“We don’t know why it died,” local environmental protection officer Morten Wedege told local newspaper Svalbardposten, “but there’s always a risk with such operations.”
It’s the second loss of a polar bear that wandered into or close to Svalbard’s major settlement, Longyearbyen since New Year. That’s when a persistent bear wandered through the streets of the town and into an area with holiday cabins. Since wildlife experts trained to sedate bears were off on holiday themselves at the time, local authorities ultimately felt compelled to shoot the bear to protect local residents,
The bear that died late last week was spotted in the Vestpynten area, around five kilometers outside the town center. The bears are a protected species, but threatened by climate change, melting ice and problems finding enough food.