Friday 28 August 2020

Dutch citizen killed by Polar Bear on Spitsbergen Island, Norway.

A Dutch citizen has died after being attacked by a Polar Bear, Ursus maritimus, on Spitsbergen Island in Norway's Svalbard Archipelago. Johan Jacobus Kootte, 38, was sleeping in a tent on a campsite near the island's main settlemens of Longyearbyen, when he was attacked at about 3.50 an on Friday 28 August 2020. The Bear was shot by a local resident, and subsequently found close to the island's airport. Mr Koote was pronounced dead upon arrival at a local hospital. He is understood to have been working as a manager at the site, which is owned by a friend. Many people on Spitsbergen Island have subsequently questioned the positioning of the campsite, which is close to a shore known to be utilised by Polar Bears. The site was protected by an electric fence, but does not appear to have had other anti-Bear defences.

Dutch citizen Johan Jacobus Kootte, 38, who was killed by a Polar Bear on Spitsbergen Island, Norway, on 28 August 2020. Svalbard Posten.

Polar Bears are considered to be Vulnerable under the terms of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, and are a protected species in Norway, where it is only legal to shoot them in self defence. Bears which approach too close to Human settlements are typically shot with tranquiliser darts, and then relocated to more remote areas, with two Bears, a mother and cub, having been relocated from close to Longyearbyen earlier this week.

The remains of the tent in which Mr Kootte was sleeping at the time of the attack. Svalbard Posten.

Although Polar Bears are considered to be potentially very dangerous, attacks on Humans are relatively rare. There have been five fatal attacks in the Svalbard Archipelago in the past 50 years, the most recent in 2011, when English student Horatio Chapple, 17, was killed in an attack in which several other students were injured. There has been one other Bear-attack recorded in the past decade, when a Czech tourist was attacked at a campsite in 2015, although on that occasion the Bear was driven off before killing its victim.

A Polar Bear, Ursus maritimus. Alan Wilson/International Union for the Conservation of Nature/Red List of Threatened Species.

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