Update 6:30 p.m: Plans to use a helicopter to chase the polar bear to Van Mijenfjorden have been abandoned due to weather, according to Gov. Kjestin askholt. “The last position on the bear was at the innermost part of Bjørndalen,” she said in a prepared statement. “This means that we cannot fully predict which way the bear will move. We therefore ask people to be very careful. Notify the governor (emergency number 112) if you observe the polar bear or polar bear tracks.”
Original story: A polar bear that visited the center of Longyearbyen on Thursday morning returned to town at about 4:30 a.m. Saturday, venturing near Longyearbyen School before The Governor of Svalbard again chased it into the mountains south of town using a helicopter and other vehicles.
“They are working on this situation now. The bear is at Longyearbreen,” Police Chief Lt. Arnt Rennan said at about 7:15 a.m., referring to the glacier directly south of town.
“We have already established an observation post in a good area” in case the bear tries to return, he added. “We don’t want any other persons to approach the area.”
At about 9 a.m. Gov. Kjerstin Askholt said in a prepared statement officials are planning to push the bear well out of town to Van Mijenfjorden.
“We have considered the possibility of tranqualizing the bear and carrying it far away by the helicopter, but there is not enough professional expertise available in Longyearbyen this Christmas to do this,” she said.
The bear, seen above during its visit Thursday in a photo provided by the governor’s office, wandered along roads and the pedestrian walkway between Kroa and Svalbardbutikken before the governor spent about 30 minutes chasing it away at about 7 a.m. during its initial visit.
On Saturday the bear entered town near Huset and made it “almost to the school” before officials chased it away relatively quickly, Rennan said.
“There was a taxi driver who spotted the bear,” Askholt told NRK at about 7 a.m. “Now it is standing and eating from a garbage can. It is attracted by the smell of food.”
Tracks left in the snow by the bear near the center of town and the riverbed leading to it became a much sought-after sight following its visit Thursday. At about 5 a.m. on Saturday Marie Lørup Stenshøj posted a photo on Facebook showing a large lump of meat in the middle of the road at Sverdrupbyen, questioning if it was left there as bait.
“We’ve taken it with us,” she wrote. “I don’t think we need to feed the bear.”