OSLO (Reuters) – A 38-year-old Dutch man was killed by a polar bear in the Norwegian Arctic Svalbard islands early on Friday, local authorities said, the first such deadly incident in nine years.
The man, who was identified as Johan Jacobus Kootte, was attacked in his tent at a camping site in the pre-dawn hours.
“The bear was shot at by people on site and walked towards the airport, which is nearby,” Svalbard Deputy Governor Soelvi Elvedahl said in a statement. “(The bear) was shortly afterwards found dead in the airport’s parking lot.”
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.
In 2011, a polar bear attacked a group of British campers, killing a 17-year-old boy and seriously injuring four others.
Polar bears are a protected species and shooting them is allowed only for self-defence and as a last resort.
Outside Svalbard’s main settlements, people are obliged by law to carry the means to scare the animals away or defend themselves, with authorities recommending they take a gun.
The islands are seeing increased activity, mainly from tourism and scientific research, and encounters between humans and animals are increasing. In addition, the Arctic ice sheet is shrinking, reducing the amount of space polar bear can roam on.
(Reporting by Nora Buli; Editing by Mark Heinrich)