8/5/2011 3:11:06 PM

Polar Bear Tragedy in Svalbard

Polar bear on melting sea iceA polar bear marooned on the island of Svalbard in Norway mauled a teenage camper to death and injured four others before being shot by a group member. The teen was part of a charity expedition from Britain that focuses on scientific expeditions. The group had set up camp near Van Post glacier.

Travelers to Svalbard, a popular area for campers, research teams, and adventurers, are required to take a gun with them because of the risk of polar bear encounters. They're also trained in techniques to scare off the bears. This year has been unusually active with polar bear sightings because melting ice floes had drifted into an island fjord, forcing the bears ashore. Earlier this year the governor's office warned people about bear attacks after several polar bears were spotted near Longyearbyen.

Scientists predict that human-polar bear conflicts will increase as the sea ice melts and hungry bears—some of them desperate—are driven ashore.

Photo credit: Daniel J. Cox/Natural Exposures.

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