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One killed as polar bear attacks British campers in Norway: reports

A polar bear killed a person and injured four others in an attack on a British tourist group on a remote Norwegian island, Sky News reported Friday.

Polar bear warning sign norway 02 25 2008Enlarge
A polar bear has reportedly killed one person and injured four others in an attack on a British tourist group in Norway. The bears are common in the area and present a serious threat, hence warning signs like this one outside the Norwegian arctic town of Longyearbyen. (Daniel Sannum Lauten/AFP/Getty Images)

A polar bear killed a person and injured four others in an attack on a British tourist group on a remote Norwegian island, Sky News reported Friday.

The bear reportedly surprised the group as they camped on the Svalbard islands near the Von Post glacier.

District deputy governor Lars Erik Alfheim told Sky News: "We deployed a helicopter with medical and police personnel, upon arrival one personal was declared dead and four people injured. It was an organized group. They had a camp set up and this attack happened in the camp."

Norwegian authorities said the bear was killed after the attack, which took place in an area where bears and travelers often come into close contact.

Bears were spotted close to Longyearbyen, the nearest major town, earlier this year, promoting the governor of Svalbard to issue a public warning about the danger they posed.

Polar explorer Tom Avery told Sky News the area had the "highest concentration of polar bears anywhere in the world":

Polar bears are incredibly dangerous animals and every expedition that goes to the arctic is acutely aware of the dangers they pose ... you're constantly aware of the threat, you're scouting the terrain.

It's a very remote part of the world but it's the polar bears' natural habitat... Usually the rifles are very effective at scaring the bears away. Shooting a bear is always a last resort. I'm, sure that people in the camp would have been aware of the particular danger.

He added that the attack seems to have occurred while the campers were off guard.

If the incident happened first thing in the morning, which it sounds as though it did at 7.30 am, maybe it caught the group unawares. Maybe they were in their tents having breakfast, maybe they were even sleeping and didn't have the chance to see the bear coming and be able to effectively frighten it away.

He said the melting of glaciers and ice in the arctic circle meant polar bears were coming into more frequent contact with people.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/green/wildlife-news/110805/polar-bear-british-tourist-attack-norway