Costly chase: Snowmobile guide fined 12K for disrupting polar bear; governor threatens travel ban where animals are


A tour guide has been fined 12,000 kroner – and future tours are facing an arguably much harsher penalty – after disrupting a polar bear by leading a snowmobiling group too close to the animal, according to The Governor of Svalbard.

The incident occurred in May at Mohnbukta when the bear was spotted about 900 meters away from the group, according to a press release issued by the governor Friday.

“The bear was calm,” the statement notes. “The guide decided that the group should drive closer to the polar bear. It was then disturbed and scared and began to run away from the tour group. The guide broke off the approach when it became apparent that the bear was scared.”

It’s illegal to deliberately engage in behavior that disrupts polar bears in Svalbard, regardless of distance, and the guide has admitted guilt in the case, according to the governor.

Mohnbukta is among numerous areas in the archipelago where notorious sightings of polar bears have occurred in recent years, with people often posting photos of the animals as both a tip and warning to future travelers. But the governor said further incidents such as the one in May could put a limit on those hoping to see bears in areas they’ve been spotted.

“With increasing tourism and traffic in Svalbard there may be more similar situations where polar bears are disturbed and intimidated,” the statement notes. “The governor will follow developments and possibly implement a ban on traffic in areas if the traffic obviously disrupts polar bears.”