A polar bear has killed a Dutch man camping in Svalbard

It's the first fatal polar bear attack on the Norwegian Arctic archipelago in nine years.

By Reuters - August 28, 2020
The campsite outside Longyearbyen is seen, on the Svalbard islands, Norway August 28, 2020. (Line Nagell Ylvisaker / NTB Scanpix via Reuters)

OSLO — A polar bear killed a 38-year-old Dutch man on Friday in Svalbard, local authorities said, the first such deadly incident in nine years.

The man, who was identified as Johan Jacobus Kootte, was attacked at a camping site in the Norwegian Arctic archipelago in the early hours of Friday morning.

“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.

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. Meanwhile, Arctic sea ice is diminishing, which reducing the habitat in which polar bears can roam freely.

Reporting by Nora Buli.