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Daily Archives: 11. September 2020 − News & Stories


Polar bear dead in con­nec­tion with sci­en­ti­fic anaes­the­ti­sa­ti­on

The series of sad news from Spits­ber­gen does not stop. On Wed­nes­day, a polar bear died in con­nec­tion with anaes­the­ti­sa­ti­on for sci­en­ti­fic pur­po­ses, accor­ding to the Sys­sel­man­nen.

The inci­dend hap­pen­ed in Wij­defjord during the rou­ti­ne autumn cam­paign to mark polar bears. In this pro­cess, bears are anaes­the­ti­sed with tran­qui­li­ser guns from a heli­c­op­ter to mark the ani­mal and for other sci­en­ti­fic pur­po­ses, usual­ly inclu­ding weig­hing and taking samples. The bear that died on Wed­nes­day was bear num­ber “30 or 31” of the cur­rent cam­paign.

So far it is only known that the bear did not sur­vi­ve. It is not yet known in public when in the pro­cess and how and why exact­ly he died. The Sys­sel­mann­nen ope­ned a case to inves­ti­ga­te the inci­dent, so no fur­ther details have been released at the time of wri­ting, for exam­p­le con­cer­ning the ques­ti­on if a vet was pre­sent or not.

The rou­ti­ne to regu­lar­ly anaes­the­ti­se a lar­ger num­ber of polar bears, invol­ving a heli­c­op­ter cha­se, has met cri­ti­cism alre­a­dy befo­re. Accor­ding to Jon Aars, lea­ding polar bear sci­en­tist of the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te, it is com­mon to “lose” 2 to 4 bears in 1000 anaes­the­ti­sa­ti­ons. This was the third time sin­ce 2003 that it hap­pen­ed to Aars, as he told Sval­bard­pos­ten. Accor­ding to Aars, mar­king bears is jus­ti­fied by the worth of the data thus obtai­ned for sci­en­tists.

polar bear skull

Mee­tings of humans and polar bears have alre­a­dy cost the lives of 4 bears and one per­son in Spits­ber­gen this year.
(The pho­to is sym­bo­lic: harm­less find of an old polar bear skull in Hin­lo­pen Strait).

It is alre­a­dy the fourth inci­dent this year whe­re a polar bear died during or after cont­act with peo­p­le. The­re was, of cour­se, the recent fatal attack of a bear on a man at the camp­si­te near Lon­gye­ar­by­en, whe­re a man and a polar bear died. A bear was shot by the poli­ce in ear­ly Janu­ary alt­hough the­re was no imme­dia­te dan­ger. And in late Janu­ary, an anaes­the­ti­sed bear died during heli­c­op­ter trans­port away from Lon­gye­ar­by­en. It seems that the lat­ter case has not been hand­led well and the inci­dent attrac­ted sub­stan­ti­al cri­ti­cism and rai­sed a num­ber of ques­ti­ons, for exam­p­le if a vet should be pre­sent during such ope­ra­ti­ons. It has not yet been reve­a­led if a vet was pre­sent when the bear died in Wij­defjord on Wed­nes­day.

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