The polar bear was first observed in late June during a boat trip. Since the governor was notified about observation, officials and others have been looking for the bear. On Tuesday it was finally found.
"We went up yesterday afternoon and freed the bear," said Rupert Krapp, a researcher for the Norwegian Polar Institute, which took care of tranquilizing the bear and removing the nylon loop from its head.
It is unclear how long the animal was caught in the noose, but the bear may have gotten tangled in yarn remains while searching for something to eat among the litter on the beach. Polar bears can quickly become violent if they comes across a carcass or are taking seals, which could have caused the bear with the noose great pain. The consequence could be the rope cutting into the skin, which would be troublesome for the animal. Therefore, the governor has searched for the animal since the beginning of July, but it has been like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Tried to tear off the rope
However, on Tuesday a message came to the governor the bear had been observed on Bjørnnesholmen. The islet is located at Austfjordnes in the entrance to Austfjorden, north of Spitsbergen. The observation was made by trappers overwintering at the Austfjordnes trapping station, and the governor contacted the Norwegian Polar Institute and asked their researchers to go out.
"The rope was not tight yet, but the bear had apparently tried to tear it, and had some scuff marks on the fur and skin," said Krapp as he explained the mission.
"We found him at Bjørnnesholmen at 1 p.m. and got him directed over the land north of the station. He was stunned just north of the small lake located at Austfjordnes iat 1:30 p.m. We finished at 2:30 and then just moved him away from the small lake and up on a dry ridge, and then went to the trapping station. He was awake then, but not on his feet yet. As we passed the bear again at 4:12 p.m. he was on his feet and walking slowly but steadily inward towards the east. We alerted the station about this and went from there."
While the bear was sedated the researchers gently pulled the noose over its head. It was then moved by helicopter to a dry area on a plateau some distance away.
It also appears the unfortunate polar bear is an acquaintance. The bear was tagged in April of 2011 as a yearling and was born in the area of Woodfjorden. The last time they met him was last year. His weight then was 100 kilograms. Before scientists left him Tuesday afternoon, they confirmed that his weight had increased to 170 kilograms.
Krapp said he believes it is difficult to determine how long it would have taken before the rope become a major concern for the animal.
Elin M. Lien, the governor's acting environmental director, said the incident with the polar bear is a good example of how there is a large amount of rubbish in Svalbard, particularly from the fishing fleet, and it poses a threat to animals.
"It was a happy ending to the story," she said. "We were the little unsure about the bear moving on before the helicopter came since we received the news Tuesday morning and got lucky that it was still there."
In addition to the uncertainty of flight conditions due to fog, it was also necessary to determine if a crew and helicopter was available from the Norwegian Polar Institute.
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