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Friday night frights: Polar bear heading toward Longyearbyen chased away by helicopter; attempted return forces locals to abandon beach bonfire; alert still in effect

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A polar bear approaching Longyearbyen from Adventdalen was scared away from town Friday night with a rescue helicopter, but an attempt by the bear to swim back toward town resulted in police ordering the evacuation of a beach where a bonfire party was taking place, according to The Governor of Svalbard. The bear continued lingering in the cabin area across the bay from town on Saturday and officials are determining if another flight to scare it away is necessary.

Observers reported seeing the bear walking slowly toward town at about 9 p.m. Friday, according to a statement by the governor’s office. It got close enough to the town limits that numerous residents and hotel guests said they could see it from their windows and balconies.

“When the polar bear in Adventdalen went towards the local dog kennel, the governor decided to use a helicopter to lead the bear in another direction,” the governor’s statement noted. “The bear is now on the northern side of the valley.”

While the bear wasn’t acting aggressively, it also was in no hurry to wandered away from settled areas.

“The polar bear is now pushed towards Hiorthhamn, where it is resting,” a statement issued at about 10:30 p.m. noted. “The governor will monitor the situation closely during the night, and take necessary measures. The governor still urges people to be alert and take their precautions.”

The bear was subsequently spotted swimming from Hiorthhamn toward town.

“We had to evacuate a group of people who were sitting on the beach and had lit a fire,” Police Chief Lt. Anders Haugerud told Svalbardposten. “The fire was extinguished by the fire department after the situation with the bear was resolved.”

At about 9 a.m. Saturday a spokesperson for the governor’s office told Svalbardposten the bear had settled down at Mälardalen. A few hours later an attempt to locate the bear by helicopter was unsuccessful, causing officials to believe it was moving toward unsettled areas beyond Isfjorden toward Diabas.

The governor’s office subsequently issued a statement urging people not to seek out the bear.

“The bear reacts to motor sounds and the governor urges people not to seek out the bear by boat,” a statement noted. “This may cause that the polar bear moves in an unwanted direction towards Longyearbyen.”

Previous incidents of bears near town have prompted people with recreational or tour boats to seek out the animals, which the governor’s office has stated violates the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act if it affects the bear’s behavior.

About Post Author

Mark Sabbatini

I'm a professional transient living on a tiny Norwegian island next door to the North Pole, where once a week (or thereabouts) I pollute our extreme and pristine environment with paper fishwrappers decorated with seemingly random letters that would cause a thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters to die of humiliation. Such is the wisdom one acquires after more than 25 years in the world's second-least-respected occupation, much of it roaming the seven continents in search of jazz, unrecognizable street food and escorts I f****d with by insisting they give me the platonic tours of their cities promised in their ads. But it turns out this tiny group of islands known as Svalbard is my True Love and, generous contributions from you willing, I'll keep littering until they dig my body out when my climate-change-deformed apartment collapses or they exile my penniless ass because I'm not even worthy of washing your dirty dishes.
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