A polar bear killed a 38-year-old Dutch man early on Friday in the Norwegian Arctic Svalbard islands. Local authorities said that the attack was the first such deadly encounter in nearly nine years. Identified as Johan Jacobus Kootte, the man was attacked in the pre-dawn hours inside his tent at a camping site.

Soelvi Elvedahl, Deputy Governor of Svalbard said in a statement, "The bear was shot at by people on site and walked towards the airport, which is nearby, (The bear) was shortly afterwards found dead in the airport's parking lot."

First Deadly Incident in Nine Years

Polar Bear
Polar Bear (Representational Picture) Pixabay

Halfway between the northern tip of Europe and the North Pole, the Svalbard archipelago of snow-capped mountains and glaciers is home to 2,939 people and 975 polar bears, according to Norway's statistics office and the Norwegian Polar Institute.

In 2011, a polar bear attacked a group of British campers, killing a 17-year-old boy and seriously injuring four others. Polar bears are a protected species and shooting them is allowed only for self-defense and as a last resort.

Increased Human Activity

Outside Svalbard's main settlements, people are obliged by law to carry the means to scare the animals away or defend themselves, with authorities recommending they take a gun.

The islands are seeing increased activity, mainly from tourism and scientific research, and encounters between humans and animals are increasing. In addition, the Arctic ice sheet is shrinking, reducing the amount of space polar bear can roam on.

(With inputs from agencies)