Copenhagen, Denmark — A polar bear attacked a campsite Monday in Norway’s remote Arctic Svalbard Islands, injuring a French tourist, authorities said, adding that the wounds weren’t life-threatening.
The woman, who wasn’t identified, was part of a tour group of 25 people who were camping at Sveasletta, in the central part of the Svalbard archipelago, which sits more than 500 miles north of the Norwegian mainland and, according to Agence France-Presse, some 600 miles from the North Pole. The campsite was located across a fjord from Longyearbyen, the main settlement in the Arctic Svalbard archipelago. The territory is twice the size of Belgium, AFP adds.
Authorities responded to the news of the attack, which came in shortly before 8:30 a.m., by flying to the site in a helicopter, chief superintendent Stein Olav Bredli.
“The French woman suffered injuries to an arm. Shots were fired at the polar bear, which was scared away from the area,” he said.
Further details on her injuries weren’t disclosed. She was flown by helicopter to the hospital in Longyearbyen.
The main newspaper on the Arctic archipelago, Svalbardposten, said the victim was a woman in her 40s, and quoted local hospital official Solveig Jacobsen as saying she was slightly injured.
The bear was found and put down because it was badly wounded, AFP reports.
Svalbard is dotted with warnings about polar bears. Visitors who choose to sleep outdoors receive stern warnings from authorities that people must carry firearms.
At least five people have been killed by polar bears since the 1970s. The last time it happened was in 2020, when a 38-year-old Dutchman was killed.
An estimated 20,000-25,000 polar bears live in the Arctic.
In 2015, a polar bear dragged a Czech tourist out of his tent as he and others were camping north of Longyearbyen, clawing his back before being driven away by gunshots. The bear was later found and killed by authorities.
The animals have been a protected species since 1973, AFP points out.