Dutch man killed by polar bear on Norway's Svalbard Islands

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The Longyearbyen camp site after a polar bear attacked the site and killed a man in Norway's remote Svalbard Islands in the Arctic, Friday Aug. 28, 2020. The polar bear was killed. The man, who wasn't identified, was rushed to hospital in the main settlement where he was declared dead Friday. (Line Nagell Ylvisaker / NTB scanpix via AP)

COPENHAGEN – A polar bear attacked a camping site Friday in Norway's remote Svalbard Islands, killing a 38-year-old Dutch man before being shot and killed by onlookers, authorities on the Arctic island said.

Johan Jacobus Kootte was in his tent when it was attacked by the bear that killed him, Deputy Governor Soelvi Elvedah said. He was an employee of the Longyearbyen Camping site, where the attack occurred, the newspaper Svalbardposten said.

Kootte was rushed to the hospital in Longyearbyen where he was declared dead, Elvedah said. Longyearbyen is the main settlement in the Arctic Svalbard archipelago, which sits more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of the Norwegian mainland.

Friday’s attack occurred just before 4 a.m. and was being investigated. No one else was injured, but six people — three Germans, one Italian, one Norwegian and one Finn — were hospitalized for shock, authorities said.

Svalbard is dotted with warnings about polar bears. Visitors who choose to sleep outdoors receive stern warnings from authorities that people must carry firearms. Norwegian broadcaster NRK said the victim was the fifth person on Svalbard to have been killed by polar bears since 1971. The last time it happened was in 2011 when a British teenager was killed.

The polar bear was found dead in a parking lot by the nearby airport after being shot by onlookers, the governor’s office said, adding it wasn't clear whether the polar bear was one of two animals to have roamed the area this week.

“This is also a strong reminder that we are in polar bear country and must take the precautions to secure ourselves,” Elvedahl later said. “Polar beers can be found all over Svalbard and be encountered anywhere throughout the year.”

An estimated 20,000-25,000 polar bears live in the Arctic.

In 2015, a polar bear dragged a Czech tourist out of his tent as he and others were camping north of Longyearbyen, clawing his back before being driven away by gunshots. The bear was later found and killed by authorities.


A previous version of this story was corrected to show that the last fatal polar bear mauling was in 2011, not 2001.