A polar bear which was found wandering in north Iceland was shot yesterday by the authorities. The bear, an adult male weighing around 250kg, is presumed to have swum from Greenland or from a distant chunk of Arctic ice.
The decision to shoot the polar bear was agreed to by the Environment Minister Thorunn Sveinbjarnardottir as the correct tranquiliser to sedate the animal was not available in Iceland and could only be flown in the following morning, reports Icelandic news channel Visir.is.
It had been proposed to try to sedate the animal and move it back to Greenland, but the police decided it was safest to kill the bear immediately.
“There was fog up in the hills and we took the decision to kill the bear before it could dissappear into the fog”, said Petur Bjornsson from the police at Saudarkrokur, near Skagafjordur where the bear was found.
The distance between Iceland and Greenland is about 300 km (200 miles). Although there are no confirmed records of a polar bear swimming between the two countries, the animal has considerable stamina and could have made the crossing if there had been icebergs on the way to rest on.
Polar bears were recently listed as a threated species by the US because its Arctic sea ice habitat is melting due to climate change. US government scientists have predicted that two-thirds of the polar bear population of 25,000 could disappear by 2050.
Footage of the polar bear walking around before being shot can be seen at mbl.is.