Polar bears return to Hiorthhamn; governor uses helicopter and boat to scare them away


A mother polar bear and her cub that trapped a couple in their cabin and disrupted an archaeological site returned to the cabin area at Hiorthhamn across the channel from Longyearbyen for several hours Tuesday before being chased away, according to the Governor of Svalbard.

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“We are afraid that they are going to start getting used to residing in and around the cabin areas,” said Gov. Kjerstin Askholt in a prepared statement on her official website. “Together with the Norwegian Polar Institute, we have decided that we should give them an unpleasant experience for being close to the cabins.”

One of the governor’s rescue helicopters and a patrol boat were used to scare the bears away from the cabins.

“The animals are now moving in the direction of Diabas,” said Police Chief Lt. Bjørn Pedersen. “It looks like they respond well to intimidation.”

The 25-year-old mother bear has been spotted frequently in areas near Longyearbyen and along the west coast of Spitsbergen in recent years, as part of an annual migration path that takes her to the northern part of Svalbard and back. The cub is one of three that survived from her most recent litter.

Earlier this month they trapped a couple for four days in a cabin at Revneset, close to where the bears are now, and forced those trying to preserve cultural remains at Advent City to abandon their expedition. The bears ransacked garbage and other edibles, possibly because traditional hunting was scare this year due to an absence of sea ice in west Spitsbergen, forcing them to seek new locations and food sources.

The governor chose to take no action at the time, other than issuing a travel warning, and the bears eventually moved further north.

A bear that wandered near town earlier this year and one that persisted in visiting cabins in the area in 2014 were eventually tranquilized and flown to the northern part of Svalbard.