Photo by Guri Opheim.
A female polar bear who’s been a persistent visitor to the Longyearbyen area was flown with her cub well away from town Monday after yet another lingering visit to the cabin area at Hiorthhamn. But within hours two new bears arrived near town, one in Adventdalen and the other near at Revneset – with the latter trying to enter cabins and prompting officials to try to scare it scare it away using flash-bang shots and helicopter, according to The Governor of Svalbard.
“The governor asks people to be alert when they are out in the field and report if they observe polar bears,” a statement issued Tuesday morning notes.
The mother bear and her cub have made repeated visits to the Vindodden and Revneset/Hiorthhamn during the past few weeks. Since an expert with the Norwegian Polar Institute and a veterinarian qualified to fit bears with research tags were available on Monday, the decision was made after consulting with them to tranquilize the bears and fly them by helicopter to the far northern part of Isfjorden, according to a statement by the governor Monday.
“Since the Norwegian Polar Institute wanted in any case immobilize the polar bear female to mark it, we use the opportunity to simultaneously move the bears away from the immediate area of Longyearbyen, Lt. Gov. Sølvi Elvedahl said.
“The bears were (previously) scared away repeatedly without it helping; they keep coming back to the vicinity of Longyearbyen,” she said. “Therefore, we have decided to move them. The weather conditions are also favorable now.”
However, during the night two new bears showed in different areas near Longyearbyen, setting off a fresh round of alerts and monitoring by the governor’s office by boat. As of about 11 a.m. the bear first seen at Revneset had moved southeast to Hiorthhamn, where it tried to enter cabins there. At 11:30 a.m. the governor announced efforts are being made to chase it away from the area after attempts to scare the bear away using flash-bang shots had little effect.
“The Governor will use a helicopter to push the polar bear at Hiorthhamn into Adventdalen,” the update noted. “At the same time, the Norwegian Polar Institute will try to fire a biopsy dart at it from the helicopter.”
The dart is intended to collect a tissue sample from the animal before quickly dislodging itself to determine if it has previously been identified by researchers, according to the polar institute.
“There is currently no plans to immobilize the polar bear,” the governor noted. “The governor asks people not to visit the area.”