Westfjords polar bear shot

Reports that the stray polar bear wandering Iceland’s Hornstrandir peninsular has been shot and killed have now been confirmed.

The Icelandic Environment Agency says in a statement that the bear was shot because of considerable fog in the area and the risk that it could become lost again and end up in an inhabited area. It fell to Isafjordur police to decide whether or not the risk posed by the bear was too high. In the end, they decided it would be impossible to properly monitor the animal round the clock. The bear was shot at 14.21 local time, Visir.is reports.

“The operation was carried out in accordance with ‘The Arrival of polar bears to Iceland’ action plan. The Isafjordur police ran the operation and representatives of the Environment Agency, the chief veterinary officer and experienced hunters were also present. The polar bear carcass was moved by helicopter to Isafjordur and will be moved to Reykjavik, where the Natural History Institute will receive it for research,” the statement reads.

It is Iceland’s national policy to shoot stray polar bears for safety reasons. Only 500 bears have ever been spotted in the country in recorded human history. This compares to around 800 polar bears which are actively hunted in the wild each year globally. The IUCN includes polar bears on its list of endangered species; but supports sustainable hunting in all 19 wild bear stocks. There are an estimated 22,000 wild polar bears in the world.

Meanwhile, Reykjavik mayor Jon Gnarr says it is sad that to kill polar bears is Iceland’s first response. He told Visir that his Best Party has already begun its promised fundraising effort to build a polar bear rehabilitation centre in Reykjavik where stray bears could be fed back to health and returned home. See Gnarr’s site here.

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