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Another polar bear visitation

So I go to the gym for a few laps on the treadmill — and what happens? A POLAR BEAR happens!

It was spotted in Þistilfjörður [or Thistilfjördur, if you prefer] by a local farmer. It then disappeared but was located a couple of hours later near a flock of sheep. It was shot by hunters as soon as it was found again.

Þistilfjörður is in north-east Iceland, right near the tip.

The decision to shoot the bear was reportedly based on three factors: safety reasons, size of the polar bear stock [huh? I thought they were becoming endangered] and the cost associated with capture. Apparently conditions in the area were far from ideal to attempt a rescue.

Some readers may recall that, in 2008, there were two polar bears sighted here in Iceland, both of which were shot. A lot of discussion arose at the time as to how humane that response had been, and a major rescue operation was launched for the second bear. In the end, however, it was shot, for safety reasons as I recall.

Poor bear.

Some people have been wondering at the frequency of these sightings and speculate that it may have something to do with the polar ice melting. I heard an expert on the radio a short while ago who did not particularly support that view, who was more of the opinion that this was a fluke, determined by ice floes and wind direction and suchlike. Still. It does seem a bit odd to have three bear sightings in less than two years.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Michael Schulz January 27, 2010, 7:25 pm

    Another polar bear? Shot … again? What a degree of incompetence !
    Stupidity! Sad but true. Sorry.

  • kevin o'connor waterford Ireland January 27, 2010, 8:29 pm

    Seems to be getting to be a regular occurrence, surely Iceland can arrange a polar bear helicopter borne response team tooled up with the right dart guns, if the bear dies then so be it.As it was just going to get lead poisoning anyway, or are the cops just gung ho hunter types that prefer it ends up dead.

  • Arjan January 27, 2010, 9:51 pm

    Well Michael, that is a quick and harsh verdict… Incompetent? Stupidity? Think again please, and than realise the conditions. A polar bear in Iceland is always way out of his (or her) comfort zone and probably extremely hungry. So, by definition dangerous for humans… Combine this with the remote location where is was sighted: many hours away from any location where it can be housed in a safe and animal friendly way. Remember: there is no zoo to be found in Iceland that is capable of dealing with such an animal! Combine this with the weather conditions (snowing, and only an hour or so away from darkness). What choice there is? It is sad, that’s what it is. But if it comes to the choice between the life of a polar bear and the safety of the villagers, the local police officer might have made the right decision. That is not incompetent nor stupid…

    Kind regards, Arjan

  • alda January 27, 2010, 10:32 pm

    What Arjan said.

  • nick January 27, 2010, 11:00 pm

    Seconded what Arjan said,

    C’mon mike, you imagine a bunch of trigger-happy cops thought “hooray” and floored the throttle of the nearest helicopter gunship so they could get their jollies wasting a bear?

    “Stupidity! Sad but true. Sorry.

    As my step-father used to say… don’t apologise, just don’t do it again.

  • Gloria January 27, 2010, 11:08 pm

    Dear Alda and Friends,
    Does it strike you as odd (as it does me) that people are so resistant to the reality of the polar ice cap melting? Why would they refute that as the reason for the polar bear visitations, or the weird changes in climate, or the sea level rising? What’s your theory? I wonder, quite sincerely, what’s to be gained from denial.

  • sylvia hikins January 27, 2010, 11:11 pm

    I once came face to face with a grizzly in Canada, which compared to a hungry, disorientated polar bear, is a mere pussy cat. I can still feel the fear rising in me as I write this. Luckily for me, the bear retreated. Human safety must always come first.
    sylvia from viking wirral

  • alda January 27, 2010, 11:21 pm

    Gloria – to be fair, that was just one guy on one talk show this pm. More people have now commented that it is, indeed, due to the polar ice melting.

    I honestly think Icelandic authorities should seize the opportunity and build some kind of polar bear zoo/reservation in Iceland. That way they wouldn’t all have to be put down. Would be good for tourism, too.

    If they can come up with the money, that is.

  • James January 27, 2010, 11:36 pm

    I’ll start to believe in global warming when polar bears arrive in Scotland.

  • Michael Lewis January 27, 2010, 11:49 pm

    The only bear I know is that loveable anthropomorphised chap – Paddington. I’ve just got back from the pub and I’m saddened by this post-Kreppa incident, the thought of Paddington or similar bear or bears being shot … I’m off to sleep now.

  • sylvia hikins January 28, 2010, 12:23 am

    I don’t think Polar Bears take too kindly to being in a zoo. They’re used to roaming around the Arctic Circle! I think most zoos in the UK have stopped keeping them.
    James: When the Polar Bears start arriving in Scotland, we’ll all be toast.
    sylvia from viking wirral (polar bear free zone- so far) !

  • idunn January 28, 2010, 12:57 am

    For some reason it had not occurred to me that polar bears existed in Iceland. If they keep shooting them, they won’t.

  • Petri Aho January 28, 2010, 7:29 am

    I’m not gonna judge what’s been done since I don’t know the situation, and sometimes you just have to make the decision.

    But since this has been happening so many times now, shouldn’t they come up with better plan to deal with those pesky polar bears? I’m sure there could even be international help from WWF or some other organization to safely transport them to safe location. Just a thought 🙂

  • Joerg January 28, 2010, 7:31 am

    Where would they have taken the bear, if they hadn’t shot him? Locked him up in some local shed or transferred by vessel to the next ice floe drifting by? Are there any concepts for this kind of incident on the way?

  • songvari January 28, 2010, 12:18 pm

    Popele think about polar bears as something cute, like sweet little Knut or other Teddy Bears. It was 200kg hungry polar bear.

  • hildigunnur January 28, 2010, 2:37 pm

    and one of the most dangerous land animals.

    It is considered inhumane to put a wild animal in a cage so a zoo idea for it isn’t in the picture at all.

    Sorry about the poor animal but there really wasn’t a choice.

  • Gudny January 29, 2010, 1:48 am

    More news about the incident is clear now.

    The Polar Bear was first sighting earlier that day, after which all farmers in the area were contacted to be warned, except 2 which couldn’t be reached. One of those two was outside tending to his sheep when the sheep freaked out and he soon saw the bear, luckily for the farmer he had his riffle and he shot the bear. Nothing else really could be done in this circumstances.

  • Vikingisson January 29, 2010, 3:07 pm

    So in the days past, B.CC. (Before Climate Change) when the pack ice would more often reach Iceland did the bears simply walk across once in a while instead of floating over by accident or is that too far unless the bear was stupid? I don’t think Iceland can sustain a native bear population with or without shooting them.

    @Gloria, people will resist the reality of a changing climate until it hits home in a really bad way. Propaganda works both ways and we’re stuck in this treadmill of misinformation.

    @idunn, bears don’t exist in Iceland except for these unfortunate animals that got stranded on float ice in Greenland and drifted to Iceland. I don’t think they could survive there or there would be more stories about a native population from the settlement days.

    zoo kept animals seem more cruel to me. The bear would have died anyway if left alone and would be miserable if put in confinement. Cochrane Ontario now has a polar bear in a zoo. Too far south for a native bear but at least it gets cold enough there…

    Feeling like Iceland in Ontario this week. The wind was insane yesterday.

  • Deidre February 4, 2010, 11:16 pm

    Alda – that sounds like a great idea a polar bear safe place in iceland! I like it!

    It is really sad that they have to be shot and I do understand the concerns about the safety of villagers. I hope they come up with another solution soon!