A polar bear seen near the horse farm at Hotellnesset on Thursday evening prompted The Governor of Svalbard to send a helicopter and other personnel to the area to chase it away and warn people to avoid the area.
The initial warning issued was at 5:45 p.m. and Terje Carlsen, a spokesman for the governor, told Svalbardposten at about 7 p.m. the bear was located quickly and by 6:15 p.m. was near Hiorthamn being chased toward Revneset (video by governor at NRK’s website), with the goal of pushing it far from settled areas.
Several residents posted reports of being warned while trying to enter areas near where the bear was sighted and of seeing the helicopter engaged in the pursuit, but no close encounters were immediately reported. Two dogsled tours encountered a bear several kilometers east of Longyearbyen during the past two weeks, including one that came within a few meters of a group before a guide scared it off by hitting it with the brake rope on the front of his sled.
Thursday’s incident is the latest of numerous sightings of polar bears near town during the past month, including one controversially shot on New Year’s Day. The governor’s office has stated personnel to sedate bears are again available after the holidays, which wasn’t the case with the bear killed because of its multiple returns to town that couldn’t be properly monitored in the 24-hour dark.
This story will be updated with details as they become available.