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Home* News and Stories → Polar bear „Frost“: anaes­the­tiza­ti­on not cau­se of death

Polar bear „Frost“: anaes­the­tiza­ti­on not cau­se of death

The death of the fema­le polar bear “Frost” and her cub on Good Fri­day 2023 in Sas­senfjord had attrac­ted inter­na­tio­nal atten­ti­on (click here for fur­ther details). The polar bear fami­ly had come clo­se to an area with huts on Vin­dod­den and peo­p­le had scared the two bears away. Soon the­re­af­ter Frost was seen dead in the water not far from the shore. The poli­ce (Sys­sel­mes­ter) was invol­ved; they shot the young bear that had appeared to be aggres­si­ve and secu­red the bodies and other infor­ma­ti­on for inves­ti­ga­ti­ons.

Soon it beca­me known that Frost and her cub had been anes­the­ti­zed just two days befo­re their death by sci­en­tists from the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te. This led to spe­cu­la­ti­ons that the anaes­the­tiza­ti­on might have been the cau­se of the death of the two bears which had appeared to be a bit of a mys­tery; usual­ly polar bears are excel­lent swim­mers and they cover gre­at distances in icy waters with ease.

Now the aut­ho­ri­ties have an auto­psy report; it is (so far) unpu­blished, but Sval­bard­pos­ten could read at least parts of it. The result: the anaes­the­tiza­ti­on was not the cau­se of death. Frost had serious inter­nal inju­ries inclu­ding bro­ken ribs, a punc­tu­red lung and inter­nal blee­ding. Accor­ding to the report, the­se inju­ries were the cau­se of Frost’s death.

It is not known how Frost recei­ved the­se inju­ries. A fall from a cliff appears as a reasonable sce­na­rio.

The anaes­the­tiza­ti­on had been done two days ear­lier in Tem­pel­fjord, six to seven kilo­me­t­res away from Vin­dod­den whe­re the two bears later died. After the anaes­the­tiza­ti­on, the sci­en­tists had obser­ved Frost and her cub for a while until their beha­viour appeared to be nor­mal again. A cau­sal con­nec­tion bet­ween the anaes­the­tiza­ti­on and Frost’s death is the­r­e­fo­re ruled out by the aut­ho­ri­ties.

Polar bear family in Isfjord, possibly Frost

Polar bear fami­ly in Isfjord. It is not known if this was Frost.

Every year seve­ral dozens or a three-digit num­ber of polar bears are anaes­the­ti­zed by sci­en­tists for inves­ti­ga­ti­ons. The polar bears are mark­ed and some of them equip­ped with trans­mit­ters, size and weight are recor­ded and various samples taken. Also Frost, known to sci­ent­sists as N23992, had been through that pro­ce­du­re a num­ber of times in her life. Polar bear bio­lo­gist Jon Aars of the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te says that he and his col­le­agues have anaes­the­ti­zed about 1000 polar bears in 20 years. In 3 cases, polar bears are known to have died from the con­se­quen­ces; the­re might be at least a 4th case which is not pro­ven bey­ond a noti­ceable tem­po­ral con­nec­tion. In any case, the pro­ce­du­re invol­ves signi­fi­cant stress for the bears and it is thus cri­ti­ci­zed by ani­mal rights acti­vists.

The fema­le polar bear Frost had been seen by many, also becau­se she had a ten­den­cy to stay near huts and sett­le­ments. She had made it a habit to break into huts, an unfort­u­na­te habit which she appeared to have taught to her cubs. She beca­me a bit of a cele­bri­ty through media covera­ge inclu­ding the docu­men­ta­ry “Queen wit­hout land” made by Asge­ir Hel­ge­land (ori­gi­nal title: „Dron­ning uten Land“). Click here for more about Frost’s adven­tur­ous and part­ly tra­gic life.

Her ten­den­cy to stay near sett­le­ments and to break into huts was any­thing but popu­lar among­st locals, and the­re were many who took the infor­ma­ti­on about her death with reli­ef.

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last modification: 2024-03-11 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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