Polar bear killed after injuring woman at Svalbard campsite

A polar bear attacked a campsite on Norway’s remote Arctic Svalbard islands on Monday, killing and injuring a French tourist.

The woman, who has not been identified, was part of a tour group of 25 people camping in Svesletta, in the center of the Svalbard archipelago, more than 800km (500 miles) north of the Norwegian mainland. The campsite was located across a fjord from Longyearbyen, the main settlement in Arctic Svalbard Archipelago.

According to CH Supt Stein Olav Bradley, officers rushed to the area by helicopter after receiving reports of the attack shortly before 8.30am.

“The French woman’s arm has been injured. The polar bear was fired upon, which was scared away from the area,” he said. No further details about her injuries have been released. The injured woman was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Longyearbyen.

Svalbardposten, the main newspaper on the Arctic archipelago, said the victim was in her 40s, and local hospital official Solveig Jacobsen said the woman was slightly injured.

Bredil later told Svalbardposten that the animal had been “badly injured” and was put down after a “professional assessment”. It is not clear how he was killed.

Polar bears are warned in Svalbard. Visitors who choose to sleep outdoors receive stern warnings from authorities that people must carry firearms. Polar bears have killed at least five people since the 1970s. The last time this happened was in 2020, when a 38-year-old Dutch man died.

An estimated 20,000-25,000 polar bears live in the Arctic.

In 2015, a polar bear dragged a Czech tourist out of his tent while he and others were camping north of Longyearbyen, clawing at his back before fleeing with gunshots. The bear was later found and killed by authorities.

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