A polar bear broke into a food storage room at Isfjord Radio on Sunday morning and spent a couple of hours eating chocolates, shredding bags of food waste, crushing wine bottles and shattering windows before it was finally scared off by a rescue helicopter, according to officials and observers.
The bear, believed to be a large male, was discovered shortly before 7 a.m. by Station Manager Malin Stark.
“The first thing I saw was that the entrance door was broken and the first thing I felt was irritation,” she told Svalbardposten, which first reported the incident. “It’s only been a short time since we got a new entrance because the previous one was also destroyed by a polar bear.”
When she looked through a window she saw bags of food waste torn open and then heard noises, indicating the bear was still inside. She told NRK the bear appeared confined by the space.
“The bear was clearly stressed,” she said. “He had broken all the small windows along the wall. He realized that it was not possible to get out of the same way he came in.”
Stark called The Governor of Svalbard and then stood watch outside the building with other station employees until the rescue helicopter arrived. The animal escaped as the helicopter approached at about 9:30 a.m.
“He got out through a little window,” Stark said. “After having been locked in for a few hours, the sound was the extra motivation he needed.”
There were five employees and ten visitors at the station, which is now used as a guest lodge, but officials said none were ever in any apparent danger, according to a statement by the governor’s office. The visitors departed the station later during the day and no new visitors are expected until next week.
Videos by station staff and visitors of the bear’s visit and escape quickly circulated widely on news and social media websites.
“A ‘little’ exciting start to the day here at Isfjord Radio,” wrote Marit Devik, a visitor who posted videos of the bear as seen from her room and its escape on her Facebook page. “I had basically given up to getting to see any special animals this weekend…settled for a spa weekend instead.”
After watching the bear’s prologued struggles, “we felt jubilation when we saw it run freely…as it should,” she wrote.