A polar bear was shot and killed in the Norwegian Arctic Svalbard islands early on Friday. He was probably looking for food and attacked a man who was camping in the area.
The man died of his injuries. People nearby then shot the animal. The polar bear was found dead in the parking lot of a local airport.
The incident took place in a camping area near Svalbard’s main town of Longyearbyen, located 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) from the North Pole.
“The bear was shot at by people and walked towards the airport, which is nearby,” Svalbard Deputy Governor Soelvi Elvedahl said in a statement. “(The bear) was shortly afterward found dead in the airport’s parking lot.”
Polar bears are a protected species and shooting them is allowed only for self-defence and as a last resort.
According to experts, the shrinking icecap has reduced the polar bears’ preferred seal hunting space, pushing them to go to populated areas to search for food. According to scientific studies, global warming in the Arctic is happening twice as fast as the rest of the planet.
The islands are also seeing increased activity, mainly from tourism and scientific research, and encounters between humans and animals are increasing.
“The bears generally stay away from humans. We are not at the top of their menu, as they prefer to feed on seals,” Jon Aars, a researcher at the Norwegian Polar Institute, told AFP. “But if they are hungry and are desperate enough, we can become their prey.”
Halfway between the northern tip of Europe and the North Pole, the Svalbard archipelago of snow-capped mountains and glaciers is home to 2,939 people and 975 polar bears, according to Norway’s statistics office and the Norwegian Polar Institute.