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Mistaking shot and rubber

A female polar bear shot at the Austfjordneset trapping station lies next to the fuel depot about 50 meters from the cabin. She was hit from a distance of about eight-and-a-half meters and ran a distance afterward. The bullet hit the bear in the back on the left side. FOTO: Governor of Svalbard

Mistaking shot and rubber

The shot that killed a polar bear on Austfjordneset last Monday was meant to intimidate.

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A female polar bear was shot last Monday by one of the caretakers at the Austfjordneset trapping station. Her cub was killed the same day by The Governor of Svalbard after consultation with the Norwegian Polar Institute, whose experts said the months-old cub had no chance of surviving on its own.

"The shot that killed the female was intended as a warning shot with rubber bullet," said Lt. Gov. Berit Sagfossen. "However, it was a shotgun cartridge that was fired and the female died."

The bear was shot from a distance of about eight-and-a-half meters.

Shot from the roof
Due to the visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week, the governor didn't have staff available to interview the trappers. They were brought to Longyearbyen on Monday instead.

Sagfossen said one of the two trappers was inside the main cabin, while the other was on the roof to fire warning shots toward the female bear. She had been at the station several times before, where there were eiders with eggs.

"The purpose of them was to scare the bear," Sagfossen said. "They did not mean to kill it."

Now she will evaluate the interviews and consult with police to determine whether there is need for further investigation.

"Then I will consider whether there are grounds for a case," she said.

Sagfossen said she hopes to resolve the matter by the end of next week.

Back at Austfjordnes
The trappers returned to Austfjordneset on Monday night.

Will they be able to complete their scheduled year-long stay?

"They have been there until now and are still there," Sagfossen said. "Now we must first make a decision here and see what we will do with the this incident. So we'll eventually get back to that issue after the matter is settled."

Gard Christophersen and Bard Blæsterdalen came to the trapping station May 28.

Svalbardposten was notified last week by the governor they did not wish to comment on the matter, but that it might be appropriate when the incident was fully investigated.

Gov. Kjerstin Askholt said last week the two trappers were strongly influenced by what happened.

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