Updated: Another Polar Bear Attack in Svalbard

A polar bear injured a man in a surprise attack early today on the east coast of Svalbard, in a frozen bay called Mohnbukta, 75km east of Longyearbyen. The man survived, thanks to a quick reaction from his partner, who shot the male bear.

An autopsy revealed that the six-year-old bear weighed only 231kg. A bear of that age should have weighed 50 to 100 percent more.

The two men were in a remote bay measuring sea ice thickness when the attack occurred. Their idling snowmobiles may have masked any sound the bear made as it approached.

Mohnbukta earlier this week.


Polar bears, and the danger they can create, are a fact of life in Svalbard. Residents of Longyearbyen sometimes carry rifles around town for protection, though they have to leave them outside before going into a bank to make withdrawals, one story recently reported.

Polar bears can turn up anywhere in Svalbard.



Last August, a man was killed when a polar bear tore into his tent near the Longyearbyen airport, where he was camped. And in 2018, a bear was filmed squeezing its way out of a tiny window after breaking into a local hotel, below.


Most polar bears will ignore or even flee from people, but a small percentage of them, mainly adolescent males, will investigate campsites or even people. If not deterred, their investigations can quickly turn lethal.

Svalbard has a history of such attacks because the 3,000 polar bears in that region clash with the tourists who come to this northern Norwegian enclave to experience the Arctic. Adventure kayakers, skiers, even children on school outings have occasionally become victims.

In most other parts of the circumpolar north, polar bears rarely run into people.