THIN HUNTING: Polar bear that attacked man this week weighed one-third less than normal for its age, expert says


A polar bear that was fatally shot after attacking a man in East Svalbard on Tuesday was the six-year-old male son of a well-known female bear who has visited near Longyearbyen for many years – and he weighed just 231 kilograms, at least one-third less than a healthy bear his age, which may have been a factor in the attack, according to a Norwegian Polar Institute expert.

An autopsy of the bear Wednesday revealed  it was tagged by institute reachers as a newborn cub in northeast Svalbard in 2015 and observed a year later in the most eastern part of the archipelago, according to The Governor of Svalbard. Jon Aars, an institute researcher who has spent many years studying bears in Svalbard, told Svalbardposten the vast majority of bears ages six to 15 will weigh between 350 and 450 kilograms in April, when the spring hunting season is typically at its peak.

“It may have been aggressive because it was thin,” he said. “It is likely. The thinner they are, the greater the chance that they are dangerous. He is at an age where he is not frequently considered as a problem bear – it is mostly among the younger or the very old who have problems.”

The bear attacked one of two men measuring the thickness of the ice at Mohnbukta on Tuesday morning, inflicting mild head injuries. His companion fatally shot the bear and the encounter is now under a routine investigation by the governor’s office.

Sea ice conditions in east Svalbard are generally considered favorable for hunting, especially compared to the west coast where climate change has resulted in scant ice cover for the past decade. But Aars told Svalbardposten it is still too early in the year for seals that are the bears’ main prey to be birthing pups on the ice.