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Home* News and Stories → Polar bear shot on Phipp­søya in 2018: no report yet

Polar bear shot on Phipp­søya in 2018: no report yet

The case of the polar bear that was shot in late July 2018 on the island of Phipp­søya by a crew mem­ber of the Ger­man crui­seship Bre­men attrac­ted media and public atten­ti­on around the world.

A team from the ship had gone ashore on Phip­pøya, which belongs to Sjuøya­ne in nort­hern­most Sval­bard, to check the site befo­re pas­sen­gers were sche­du­led to come ashore. The dra­ma­tic inci­dent ended with one per­son recei­ving minor head inju­ries and the bear being shot. Pas­sen­gers were not ashore during the inci­dent.

Polar bear shot on Phippsøya, Spitsbergen

Polar bear on Phipp­søya, a com­mon lan­ding site, in mid July 2018. It was very likely this bear that was shot in the same place in late July.

Almost two years have gone past now and one may won­der what came out of the who­le thing. The disap­poin­ting inter­me­dia­te result is that the­re is no result yet, as Sval­bard­pos­ten was told on request by the Sys­sel­man­nen. The case was ori­gi­nal­ly hand­led by the Sys­sel­man­nen and then it went to rele­vant aut­ho­ri­ties in main­land Nor­way for fur­ther legal tre­at­ment and from the­re in late 2019 back to the Sys­sel­man­nen. And the­re it still is today. The lar­ge capa­ci­ties absor­bed by the Coro­na cri­sis are said to have play­ed a role in recent mon­ths.

So while we still have to wait for con­fir­med infor­ma­ti­on, we can spe­cu­la­te a bit about some fac­tors that may have con­tri­bu­t­ed to the tra­gic out­co­me: It is cer­tain­ly pos­si­ble to not see a polar bear that is in the vicini­ty in the uneven ter­rain of that par­ti­cu­lar place on Phipp­søya even if one is alert. The­re was a car­cass on the beach at that time, and the bear had been retur­ning to that car­cass repeated­ly over a lon­ger peri­od to feed on it. The car­cass was lying in the area whe­re lan­dings are com­mon­ly made, but it was hard to see from the distance.

If one hap­pens to go ashore clo­se to the car­cass, then it is cer­tain­ly pos­si­ble that a bear that is in the area, res­ting and wai­t­ing for the appe­ti­te to return, shows a rapid and aggres­si­ve reac­tion.

Again: this is spe­cu­la­ti­on, based on local know­ledge and expe­ri­ence, inclu­ding a sigh­t­ing of a polar bear in this given place in mid-July 2018, which was most likely that par­ti­cu­lar bear that was shot soon the­re­af­ter. Mean­while, we can curious­ly await the report from the Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties to learn more about what actual­ly hap­pen­ed during the inci­dent.

By the way, my new book is in print and it can now be orde­red 🙂 it is a pho­to book with the tit­le “Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (1): Spitz­ber­gen – vom Polar­licht bis zur Mit­ter­nachts­son­ne”, with Ger­man text Click here for fur­ther details!

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last modification: 2020-06-12 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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