Growls of frustration are already being heard as officials are trying to cope with another bear lingering near Longyearbyen in recent days, including two encounters with guided tour groups. But while The Governor of Svalbard says it is doing everything to avoid a repeat of the controversial killing of a bear on New Year’s Day, it’s crucial the public do everything possible to prevent potentially harmful situations.
The bear has been spotted multiple times during the past week in Bolterdalen, several kilometers east of Longyearbyen, including a notorious encounter when a guide leading a dogsled group scared the bear away by hitting it with an anchor rope on the front of the guide’s sled. The incident occurred only meters from Green Dog Svalbard, where bear tracks have been found near the kennels and near a multitude of cabins in an area that’s also popular for recreational excursions.
“Killing a polar bear is definitely the last resort,” said Police Chief Lt. Ole Jakob Malmo in a statement issued by the governor’s office Friday. “We do not currently have any plans for this when it comes to the bear in Bolterdalen. If the bear reappears we will make new attempts to push it away. In consultation with the polar bear expertise in-house with us and at the Norwegian Polar Institute we will also consider the possibility of sedating the bear and carrying it away by helicopter.”
The possibility of sedation was not an option with the bear killed on New Year’s Day after it made several visits to and near Longyearbyen in the preceding days, because the people qualified to do so were away for the holidays, according to the governor’s office. But the assertion there was no practical alternative to killing to bear because limited resources and the 24-hour dark of polar night meant it was impossible to fully monitor the bear and ensure people’s safety triggered strong disagreement among many locals and outsiders.
The governor’s statement on Friday emphasized public actions are a factor in the fate of the bear now being monitored.
“The governor urges everyone not to store meat, food and food waste outdoors, and to comply with the waste management system in Longyearbyen,” the statement notes. “The polar bear has a very good sense of smell and is attracted by the smell of food. The Governor also reminds people that it is not permitted to seek out or intimidate polar bears so that it is disturbed or dangerous situations arise.”