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Home* News and Stories → Female polar bear and cub shot at Austfjordneset

Female polar bear and cub shot at Austfjordneset

A female polar bear and her first year cub were shot at Austfjordneset (inner Wijdefjord) in Spitsbergen on June 13 (during the season, news are updated with delays. The focus is currently on the travel blog). Two persons are currently living at Austfjordneset to winter there as trappers.

The bear had been in the vicinity of the hut for a while, probably because of nests of Common eiders in that area. It is common that polar bears eat eggs and chicks of tundra breeders during the breeding season. It is, however, uncommon that a mother bear with a cub comes close to human presence.

One of the two inhabitants of the hut was inside, the other one was on the roof to scare the bear away with warning shots. While doing so, it came to a fatal mistake: rather than with a rubber bullet as intended to scare the female polar bear away without injury, the shooter loaded his gun with sharp shot. This proved to be lethal on a distance of 8.5 metres.

On advice by a polar bear specialist of the Norwegian Polar Institute, the police shot the cub on location the same day. The cub, being about 6 months old, did not have a chance for survival on its own.

As all cases of polar bears killed, the incident is now matter of legal investigation at the Sysselmannen’s office in Longyearbyen. Polar bears are completely protected in Spitsbergen. Only in cases of self defence, a kill is exempt from punishment.

The two trappers, Norwegians 28 and 29 years old who had studied at UNIS and worked as guides in Longyearbyen, returned to Austfjordneset after police questioning in Longyearbyen.

The case of the group of ski tourists from Finland, who had injured a polar bear at Verlegenhuken north on Spitsbergen which then had to be shot by the police, has been closed meanwhile. According to the Sysselmannen, it was not a criminal act.


Happy little polar bear family in Kongfjord. The mother is chewing on remains of a dead walrus, while her first year cub is playing with a piece of driftwood. Normally, female polar bears with offspring stay away from human presence. Unfortunately, there are exceptions to this rule.

Polar bear family, Spitsbergen

Sources: Sysselmannen, Svalbardposten

last modification: 2016-08-12 · copyright: Rolf Stange