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Monthly Archives: July 2016 − News

Fema­le polar bear and cub shot at Aus­t­fj­ord­ne­set: case goes to Trom­sø

The sad shoo­ting of a mother polar bear and her first year cub has been the mat­ter of the last news pos­ting on this web­site. A trap­per wan­ted to sca­re the polar bear away with a rub­ber bul­let, but by mista­ke he took a sharp car­tridge and fired a let­hal shot at the bear. The cub was later on the same day shot by the poli­ce, as it did not have a chan­ce for sur­vi­val on its own in the arc­tic wil­der­ness.

Now the aut­ho­ri­ties in Lon­gye­ar­by­en have deci­ded that the case will not be nego­tia­ted local­ly wit­hin the insti­tu­ti­on of the Sys­sel­man­nen, which would be the nor­mal pro­ce­du­re. Ins­tead, the case will be for­war­ded to the public pro­se­cu­tor in Trom­sø. It was said that this is becau­se of the lar­ge public inte­rest in the case. Addi­tio­nal­ly, the trap­pers are using a hut owned by the Sys­sel­man­nen. It may be that the Sys­sel­man­nen wants to pre­vent any cri­ti­cism of being pre­ju­di­ced at an ear­ly sta­ge.

The hut at Aus­t­fj­ord­ne­set in Wij­defjord was ori­gi­nal­ly built pri­va­te­ly as a trap­pers hut but has now been sta­te pro­per­ty for a num­ber of years. Out of the many huts owned by the Sys­sel­man­nen, this is the only one which is lent to pri­va­te per­sons who want to live the­re for a year as trap­pers. The pur­po­se is to keep the tra­di­ti­on ali­ve. It is a con­di­ti­on that the trap­pers have to hunt actively, which does of cour­se not inclu­de polar bears. The­se are strict­ly pro­tec­ted. Spe­ci­es that are hun­ted inclu­de main­ly rein­de­er, polar fox, ptar­mi­gan and seals.

Polar bear fami­ly at Nor­dens­kiöld­breen (archi­ve image from sep­tem­ber 2012).

Spitsbergen: polar bear family

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

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


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