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More stubborn bears

This bear in the Arctic nature guides camp in Adolfbukta was not easy to scare. FOTO: Pete Lambert

More stubborn bears

The Governor of Svalbard is warning about bears that will not allow themselves to be intimidated.

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05.09.2014 kl 10:55

"There have been quite a few polar observations in Isfjorden this year," said Christian Svarstad, a police chief inspector for the governor. "Some bears allow themselves to be intimidated, so they can be taken of. Others are really stubborn. The stubborn ones have been spread from Van Mijenfjorden all the way to Pyramiden."

He says it's hard to tell if it is the same bear that has been observed several times, or whether there is talk of many bears.

"None of these bears are marked, and you know that polar bears are not afraid to take themselves on a long walk or swim," he said.

Important to assess the risk
Svarstad said everyone needs to be aware that if they encounter a bear, it can be difficult to intimidate.

"That request goes especially for those who will be staying in tents," the inspector said. "People have to make a proper risk assessment in deciding where the camp will be located. They also need to think about what they have left in the camp and in cabins. Food attracts bears."

He says the governor's office has examples of scientists who have set up camp on the beach next to a reindeer carcass.

Several this year
In recent years there have been multiple incidents where people have encountered bears that are not easily intimidated.

"I was talking a little with folks at UNIS and those people they have in camp," Svarstad said.

"They agree that's been a trend over the last two to three years, and especially this year there have been many examples where there are more bears that refuse to be intimidated so easily."

He says that it appears that polar bears are currently thriving in Isfjorden. They are not particularly thin and apparently are feeding themselves well.

"Some also saw bears taking seals in next to Nordenskiöldbreen," he said.

Humans must yield
For two weekends in a row a polar bear has been on the north side of Adventfjorden. Both times the governor elected to use a helicopter to chase it away. They did this as well to save the camp of the Arctic Nature Guide program this week.

What does it take to opt to use a helicopter to deal with a bear?

"According to the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act, it is humans who will give way to the bear," Svarstad said. "There we expect people to perceive, and we expect that they have a plan for, how to get safely away from the bear. Usually, the bear goes for the food in the camp. My impression is that if people pull away, don't go for the bear or people. By then it has got what it needs. If people pull away safely, they have resolved the situation in as good a way as possible. The reason we headed off the bear this week is that there was talk of a group with a lot of equipment that could have been spread all over, and substantial physical assets."

What about the bear chased away from the area near Longyearbyen?

"That was because it is a complex area with many cabins and there could be many people who had not grasped that there was a bear in the area. It was a measure to prevent attacks on humans."

Be prepared
The inspector said he believes the recent weeks' events are a good reminder to both newcomers and people who have lived in Svalbard for many years.

"They get a reminder about the real polar bear danger," Svarstad said.

Despite all this summer's meetings between people and bears, there have not been any injuries.

"People have been acting so well that there has not been a human life taken or a killing of a polar bear," Svarstad said. "That we are very pleased with."

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Se bildet større

Christian Svarstad (the left) talking to the teachers Jens Abild and Cecilie Harr Moen after their meeting with the bear in Adolfbukta earlier this week. FOTO: Line Nagell Ylvisåker

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