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Author Topic: Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard.  (Read 7123 times)

Josh-H

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Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard.
« on: March 20, 2015, 04:29:45 am »

If you have seen the news over the last few days there was a Polar bear just shot dead in Svalbard as a result of irresponsible tourist behaviour.
http://blog.jholko.com

I photographed this very bear only a few days ago as it was happily playing around and on this piece of blue ice. The bear was shot because ignorant tourists set up a tent camp in an area the bear was known to be hunting.

I just wanted to share this photograph as this was a tragedy that could have so easily been avoided.
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Paulo Bizarro

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Re: Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard.
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2015, 04:55:08 am »

Sad story...

Tony Jay

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Re: Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard.
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2015, 04:55:13 am »

Yes thanks for sharing Josh.

Reminds me when I was in Africa in 2013 when an elephant was shot in Kruger National Park after being cruelly provoked by two stupid tourists in a hatchback.
Later that same month in the Okavango delta I witnessed a German tourist teasing a bull elephant at a lodge (won't mention which).
The rangers chased the elephant off but as far as I was concerned if anyone needed to be shot it was the tourist!
I was later told by the rangers that this elephant had nearly killed one of their own about six months prior.

Basically if anyone wants to play the dumb tourist in a wilderness area then someone is going to get killed.

Tony Jay
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Chairman Bill

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Re: Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard.
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2015, 08:41:21 am »

Sad story, but a great photograph, and the second one, with the text, a powerful message. Maybe it should be given to every visiting group.

luxborealis

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Re: Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard.
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2015, 09:12:47 am »

Thanks for sharing, Josh. Very poignant.
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Kevin Gallagher

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Re: Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard.
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2015, 09:46:30 am »

 Josh, such a sad story and reading your blog has moved me to tears as well. Such a shame that a majestic animal had to be ended because of the stupidity of some tourists.
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Eric Myrvaagnes

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Re: Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard.
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2015, 12:10:13 pm »

Basically if anyone wants to play the dumb tourist in a wilderness area then someone is going to get killed.

...preferably the dumb tourist.

Thanks for sharing this sad story and your wonderful photo, Josh.
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard.
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2015, 12:28:07 pm »

A few facts, to put things into perspective: there are about 2500 locals there, 1500 tourists for the solar eclipse, and... 3000 bears. On avarage, every year 3 bears get killed in self defense. That would be 0.1% of the bear population. The last human killed by a bear was in 2011, a British boy on a school trip. "Stupid, ignorant and arrogant" tourists did exactly as told by authorities: carried a shotgun when out. Nothing more, nothing less. Obviously, the authorities think that 0.1% is an acceptable compromise between conservation and protection of human life. If not, they would have instituted a system of permits, trained guides, required protocols, etc.

However, not wishing an injured man to be fine is... is... (he takes a deep breath and decides to observe the forum decorum).

LesPalenik

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Re: Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard.
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2015, 02:33:02 pm »

Beside camping too close to the bear's prowling grounds, most likely, there was some food or smelly gas in the tent. The curious polar bear like all other bear species was attracted by the smell, went to investigate and started to pull the middle one of the three bodies out from the tent. After all, from a bear perspective, anything putrid inside a heavy sleeping bag resembles a seal. When surprised by the squirming body in the sleeping bag, his natural reaction was the "attack".

Bears have 7 times more powerful sense of smell than a dog and can detect an aromatic Prague Sausage over a mile away.
Most bear encounters are caused by surprising a bear and usually can be prevented. Understanding bear behavior and recognizing bear sign are important and basic safety rules should be mandatory when hiking or camping in bear country (applies to black, brown, and white bears).


http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/misc/bears/bearsaf.html

EDIT:
With over 2,000 tourists as reported currently in this area, such accidents are bound to happen.
The polar bear that in 2011 killed in the same area (outside of Longyearbyen) a young Brit, injured four other people, two of them more seriously than Moravec in this year's attack. As mentioned by Slobodan above, three bears are killed every year in this area in "self-defense". This compares with 15 deaths of grizzly bears in Alberta last year, that were struck by vehicles on highways, shot in self-defence or killed illegally. The current grizzly population in entire province of Alberta is estimated at only about 700, so the relative killing of grizzlies there is twenty times more alarming that of polar bears.

According to the local law, all tourists outside of the settlements in Spitsbergen should be accompanied by a local armed guide. The group of six Czechs went on their own and although they strung a bear alarm fence around their tents, the relatively small bear managed to squeeze under the fence without triggering the fireworks. Similarly, the group in 2001 bear attack installed also a wire alarm fence around their camping area, which failed as well. Either poor quality alarm fences, or insufficient knowledge in setting it up.

The shots from the pistol fired by a woman in the next tent scared the bear who ran away but the inflicted injuries were serious enough for bear's survival and it had to be killed by the local police. After being treated in the hospital, Moravec said that he feels fine, is looking forward to shoot the solar eclipse and would enjoy returning to that area in the future.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2015, 09:50:46 pm by LesPalenik »
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summit68

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Re: Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard.
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2015, 12:19:16 pm »

I'm fine with tourists interacting with polar bears, just take the guns away.
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Isaac

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Re: Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard.
« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2015, 12:34:46 pm »

Yosemite 2014 Bear Facts -- "This year, 25 bears have been hit by vehicles! (Sixteen bears were hit by cars last year.)"
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Jeremy Roussak

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Re: Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard.
« Reply #11 on: March 21, 2015, 03:22:53 pm »

I photographed this very bear only a few days ago as it was happily playing around and on this piece of blue ice. The bear was shot because ignorant tourists set up a tent camp in an area the bear was known to be hunting.

The shooting of a bear is terribly sad, but how do you know it was the same one? I wouldn't like to be considered ursist1 but they all look alike to me.

Jeremy

1if that's a word
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Josh-H

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Re: Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard.
« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2015, 03:39:17 pm »

The shooting of a bear is terribly sad, but how do you know it was the same one? I wouldn't like to be considered ursist1 but they all look alike to me.

Jeremy

1if that's a word

Because I have photos showing the two ear tags in the bears ear that match up with the tags in the bear that was shot.
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LesPalenik

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Re: Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard.
« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2015, 03:26:31 am »

Quote
The shooting of a bear is terribly sad, but how do you know it was the same one? I wouldn't like to be considered ursist1 but they all look alike to me.

Actually, many bears have distinctive features and can be told apart - different size, body shape (males/females/juvenile), walk, shape of head, some discolorations or other marks.  And as Josh mentioned, also by ear tags. I wonder, what is the percentage of tagged bears.
For the bears, it's much harder to detect the difference between an American or a Norwegian.
 
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Jeremy Roussak

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Re: Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard.
« Reply #14 on: March 22, 2015, 06:09:46 am »

Because I have photos showing the two ear tags in the bears ear that match up with the tags in the bear that was shot.

Fair enough. Just wondered.

Jeremy
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JohnBrew

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Re: Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard.
« Reply #15 on: March 22, 2015, 08:22:35 am »

Thanks for posting this, Josh. The percentage of ignorant people rises exponentially with our greater world population.
Two quotes, and I do not mean to take away from the seriousness of the topic:
"If it's tourist season, why can't we shoot them?"
"Arm the animals - make it a fair fight."

summit68

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Re: Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard.
« Reply #16 on: March 23, 2015, 02:36:29 pm »

Yosemite 2014 Bear Facts -- "This year, 25 bears have been hit by vehicles! (Sixteen bears were hit by cars last year.)"

You can not compare Black Bears with threatened Polar Bears.
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Josh-H

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Re: Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard - FINDINGS RELEASED
« Reply #17 on: July 10, 2015, 10:28:03 pm »

The governor of Svalbard has released the results of the investigation into the death of this Bear and for the first time in history a large fine has been levied against those responsible for putting the lives of people and bears in danger.

This is a great result considering the circumstances. My Blog on the death of the bear. The full official report.
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Eric Myrvaagnes

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Re: Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard.
« Reply #18 on: July 10, 2015, 11:23:04 pm »

Thanks for the update, Josh.
This is at least one small step in the right direction.
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Alan Klein

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Re: Polar Bear shot dead in Svalbard.
« Reply #19 on: July 11, 2015, 12:44:40 pm »

I think we should tag all tourists with a flag from their respective countries so the bears have a choice.

All kidding aside, I think there's two sides to this story.  The locals, government etc. encourage and advertise interaction between their local wild animals and tourists who come to spend their money to help the local economy.  Of course there's going to be some stupidity, mistakes, ignorance and just normal problems when dangerous animals and people are in close proximity.   If you want to protect the animals, and people, set up rules that will keep them apart.  Of course, the community will probably have to sacrifice some income as tourists travel elsewhere. 
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