Man Killed by Polar Bear on Norway’s Arctic Svalbard Islands

August 28, 2020 Updated: August 28, 2020

COPENHAGEN, Denmark—A polar bear attacked a camping site and killed a foreign national in the remote Svalbard Islands on Friday, authorities on an Arctic island said, adding the animal was killed.

The man was rushed to the hospital in Longyearbyen where he was declared dead by doctors, Deputy Governor Soelvi Elvedah said. Longyearbyen is the main settlement in Norway’s Arctic Svalbard archipelago, which sits more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of the Norwegian mainland.

The attack occurred just before 4 a.m. and was being investigated, the governor’s office said. The victim’s identity and citizenship weren’t immediately given. No one else was injured, but six people were hospitalized for shock.

An autopsy will be conducted at the University Hospital of North Norway in Tromsoe, north of the Arctic Circle.

The polar bear was found dead in a parking lot by the nearby airport after being shot by onlookers, the governor’s office said in a statement posted on its website.

Norway Polar Bear Attack
A parking area, part of the Longyearbyen camp site, after a polar bear killed a man in Norway’s remote Svalbard Islands in the Arctic, on Aug. 28, 2020. (Line Nagell Ylvisaker / NTB scanpix via AP Photo)

It wasn’t clear whether the polar bear was one of two of the animals to have roamed the area this week, the governor’s office said.

The website says bears may appear anywhere on Svalbard and urges people “to stay as far away as possible to avoid situations that could be dangerous for you and for the bear.” An estimated 20,000-25,000 bears live in the Arctic.

Svalbard is dotted with warnings about polar bears. Visitors who choose to sleep outdoors receive stern warnings from authorities that people must carry firearms while moving outside of settlements.

Norwegian broadcaster NRK said the victim was the fifth person to have been killed by polar bears since 1971. The last time it happened was in 2011 when a British teenager was killed.

In 2015, a polar bear dragged a Czech tourist out of his tent as he and others were camping north of Longyearbyen, clawing his back before being driven away by gunshots. The tourist, who was slightly injured, was among a group of six people on a combined ski and snow scooter trip on the remote islands. The bear was eventually found and killed by local authorities.

By Jan M. Olsen