A polar bear attacked a person at a remote campsite on the Svalbard Islands—an Arctic archipelago situated between mainland Norway and the North Pole. The attack, which was reported just before 8:30 a.m. on August 8, left a French woman with non-life threatening injuries, according to CBS News.
The woman was camping with a group of 25 people in the Sveasletta region of Norway when the incident occurred. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, members of the group shot at the bear, according to local authorities. The woman suffered injuries to her arm.
The Svalbard Islands are home to some of the world’s most northerly settlements. The landscape is rugged and glaciated, and it’s known for a robust polar bear population that’s estimated at around 3,000 bears. It’s also home to reindeer, arctic foxes, seals, walruses, and muskox. In the summertime, polar bears frequent the front edge of glaciers where the ice meets the sea. They can often be seen feeding on seals hauled from the frigid waters of the Arctic Ocean.
Polar bear warning signs are a common sight in the Svalbard Islands, and authorities there say that anyone who plans on sleeping outside should carry a firearm to ward off potential bear attacks. The campsite where the French tourist was attacked was set up across a fjord from the community of Longyearbyen, the largest settlement on the archipelago. Polar bear attacks are rare—but they can prove deadly. According to CBS, at least five people have been killed by polar bears since the 1970s. The last polar bear-related fatality occurred in 2020 when a Dutch man was killed in the same general area as this morning’s attack. In 2015, a Chezch tourist was dragged from his tent by a polar bear and clawed on his back while camping in an area north of Longyearbyen.
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The woman involved in the most recent attack was flown to a hospital in Longyearbyen for treatment. The bear responsible for the attack—already badly wounded from shots fired immediately following the initial attack—was tracked down and euthanized by Norwegian authorities.