The Governor of Svalbard is continuing to keep some details under wraps about the confrontation between a group of six Czech tourists and a two-year-old polar bear last Thursday. One man suffered slight injures after the animal, which later had to be euthanized, entered the tent camp at Fredheim early in the morning.
What is known:
• 5:30 a.m. (approx.): The bear entered the campsite without triggering the flare alarm system set up around the two tents. It appears the group did not have a guard watching for polar bears at the time. Jakub Moravec, 37, the injured man, said he was dragged out of the tent and another person in the group fired three shots with a .44 Magnum at the animal. The bear subsequently fled.
• 6:20 a.m.: The governor's office is notified and a rescue helicopter is sent to the scene. A doctor lands at the camp to take care of the victim while the helicopter follows a blood track to find the bear.
• 7:50 a.m. (approx.): The bear is observed swimming in Tempelfjorden. It turns when it sees the helicopter and returns to land. Officials are determined to kill the bear after observing that, due to the injuries sustained from being shot, it is moving abnormally and continuing to leave a trail of blood.
• 8.10 a.m. (approx.): The bear is killed not far from where the attack occurred. An autopsy performed the evening of the attack shows the bear was seriously injured in the neck due to the gunshots.
What is unknown:
• Why did the tripwire alarm system fail, since the governor has confirmed it was set up tautly around the perimeter of the camp? Was it set up correctly?
"The cause is not sufficiently clear that we can comment about it now," Lt. Gov. Jens Olav Sæther stated in an e-mail to Svalbardposten on Wednesday afternoon.
• Did the group have bear guards on duty?
"At the time the bear came into camp all of the people were inside the tents," Sæther stated. "They had, we were were informed, a polar bear guard awake not too long before the bear broke into the camp."
• Why wasn't a polar bear guard outside when the attack occurred? Was anybody awake when the bear entered the campsite?
• Why did so much time elapse between the group shooting the bear and notifying the governor's office about the incident? What happened during that interlude?
The governor's office did not provide replies to those questions.
"The case is still under investigation and it is not appropriate to answer all questions at this phase of the case. It is too early to say when we will finish the investigation," Sæther wrote, adding that will not occur until after Easter.
Healthy and fit
The polar bear was observed and photographed by several people during the days before the attack. Officials later determined it was a two-year-old "healthy" bear previously tagged by the Norwegian Polar Institute. Its weight was 154 kilograms.
Jon Aars, a polar bear researcher for the institute, said it's unlikely desperation or distress caused the animal to visit the campsite.
"It had a good weight and a good layer of blubber for a two-year-old, plus people apparently observed that it managed to catch seals," Aars told Svalbardposten. "However, they are the curious and opportunistic animals."
Institute researchers observed the bear in Billefjorden on April 4 of last year, along with mother and sister.
"The sister was later found dead, so it did not end well for this family," Aars said.
The Czech tourists arrived in Svalbard on March 12 and spent a few days in the Bjoerndalen area before they went to Fredheim. Their plan was to see the March 20 total solar eclipse from the abandoned mining town of Pyramiden.
Moravec said he didn't understand what was happening as the "bear tore the fabric of the tent and grabbed the legs." He said he must have been dragged out of the tent.
"I think it would have gotten a hold of my head, but I used my free arm to keep his head at a distance. I fought it as I could," he told Svalbardposten from his hospital bed the day of the attack.
Zuzana Háková, 31, another member of the tour group, said a misplaced tripwire may have contributed to the attack.
"It may have been slightly too high, so that the bear could go under," she said. "But that will be shown by the investigation."
Translated by Mark Sabbatini