A polar bear that invaded a campsite and tore apart tents just after midnight Friday forced the ten kayakers to abandon the site after rescue officials chased the animal away with a helicopter, according to The Governor of Svalbard.
The group of foreign visitors was camping at Gipsvika, about halfway between Longyearbyen and Pyramiden, and a polar bear guard had been observing the animal in the vicinity for a while before it intruded, Police Chief Lt. Vidar Arnesen told NRK.
“The polar bear tore apart the tents and took care of the food that was there,” he said.
The group contacted the governor’s office when flare shots failed to scare the bear away from the area.
“Then they had to take what they needed and evacuate when the bears showed no signs of stopping,” Arnesen said. “They managed to keep a distance of 150 to 200 meters while the polar bear roamed the tents.”
Rescue officials arrived at the campsite shortly after the alert was sent.
“We went out in a helicopter and used it to scare the bear some distance away,” Police Chief Lt. Atle Rokkan told Svalbardposten. “Since there was uncertainty around whether it would come back or not, we decided to evacuate the entire camp.”
Nobody was injured in the encounter and the group salvaged its most important gear, but the bear damaged much of what was left behind, Rokkan said. He said the group, now staying at a hotel, will try to return to the area and clear the camp Friday.