A polar bear has killed a 38-year-old Dutch national at a campsite in the Norwegian Arctic Svalbard islands early on Friday, local authorities said, adding that it is the first such deadly incident since 2011.
The bear attacked the man in his tent before people at the scene fired shots at it. The Dutch was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. At the time of the attack, seven people were camping at the site. The bear was found dead later in the car park of the local airport.
The victim, identified as Johan Jacobus Koote, was a friend of the Dutch campsite’s owner, Michelle van Dijk, who was not on the spot when the incident occurred. Van Dijk told Dutch media that it was Johan’s second year as a camp manager. In her words, he was experienced and had the proper training.
According to van Dijk, a warning had been issued earlier that day about the bear. There is a guard dog on the site. However, the plans to fence off the area had been delayed because of the pandemic, the owner explained.
The attack is the sixth fatal incident in almost 50 years in the area. In 2011, a polar bear attacked a group of British campers, killing 17-year-old tourists and injuring four others.
The archipelago is home to some 1,000 polar bears, which are protected species, figures from 2015 suggest. People living in the region are strongly recommended to carry a gun to defend themselves when they leave the built-up area.
Jon Aars from the Norwegian Polar Institute commented that the bear was most likely hunting for food. The drastic reduction in the Arctic sea ice has limited access to seals, the polar bears’ favorite food, Aars explained. Forced to seek alternatives, the bears are now forced to come closer to the archipelago’s few populated areas.
According to Aars, the climate change impact can be seen more on Svalbard than probably anywhere else in the world. Last year, scientists found out that in one part of the archipelago, the temperatures are rising 15 times faster than anywhere on Earth. Earlier in the summer, Longyearbyen’s town experienced a temperature record of 71.06F ( 21.7 C).
Climate change also resulted in milder winters, which have caused more avalanches. Longyearbyen’s residents got occasional evacuation warnings. Two tourists lost their lives in an avalanche earlier this year.
What do you think? Is only climate change to blame for the tragedy?