Officials Kill Polar Bear After It Injures Tourist in Svalbard

A French woman survived a polar bear attack while camping on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard.

The bear attacked a tour group of 25 people early Monday morning in the town of Sveasletta, according to The Associated Press.

The French tourist sustained injuries to her arm that were not life-threatening. Medical personnel flew her by helicopter to the hospital in Longyearbyen, the biggest settlement in Svalbard.

“Shots were fired at the polar bear, which was scared away from the area,” chief superintendent Stein Olav Bredli said on Monday. Authorities later found and killed the animal, according to news reports.

map of Svalbard and location of incident

Photo: Google Earth


Located more than 800km north of the Norwegian mainland, the Svalbard archipelago is famed for its beautiful arctic scenery and large polar bear population.

Polar bears have killed five people in Svalbard since 1971. The last death occurred in 2020 when one attacked a man at a campsite just outside town.

In March 2021, a polar bear injured a man in a surprise attack on the east coast of Svalbard, in a frozen bay called Mohnbukta. The man survived thanks to the quick reaction of his partner, who shot the male bear.

Svalbard has long issued many warnings about polar bears. Tourists sleeping outdoors receive strong advice to carry firearms. However, last year, new rules made it more time-consuming for foreigners to obtain a permit to carry firearms. Applications can take months to process.

“You should be prepared to encounter a polar bear anywhere in Svalbard,” says on its website. “POLAR BEARS ATTACK EXTREMELY QUICKLY WITHOUT WARNING. BE ACCOMPANIED BY A LOCAL GUIDE WITH A FIREARM WHEN LEAVING THE SETTLEMENTS.”

Andrew McLemore

An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is also a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Medellin, Colombia. When he’s not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he’s hanging out with his dog Campana.