Fishermen reported the sighting of a polar bear in the inlet Haelavík in the northeastern Hornstrandir region of the West Fjords, which is uninhabited, at 9 am yesterday morning. A Coast Guard helicopter was sent to the scene where it arrived at 2 pm.
Inside a Coast Guard helicopter. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
The crew of the helicopter started looking for the bear and spotted it shortly afterwards in the inlet Rekavík east of Haelavík, ruv.is reports.
The animal made a run for it when it heard the helicopter but a marksman from the Ísafjördur Shoot Hunting Association, who was on board the helicopter, shot it at a range of 50 meters at 2:21 pm.
Chief Constable of the West Fjords Önundur Jónsson, who supervised the action, said it looked as if the shot hit the animal in exactly the right spot in the chest. He described the bear as very frisky; it ran up mountain slopes to get away.
Due to safety reasons it was considered necessary to terminate the animal. If the group had lost sight of it there was no way to know where it would wander off to, he reasoned.
It wouldn’t have been possible to secure the safety of residents if the animal had swum across the fjord Ísafjardardjúp, which separates Hornstrandir from inhabited areas.
No one was in danger in Hornstrandir yesterday morning—the police managed to stop a group of seven or eight people who were planning to go ashore in Rekavík at that exact point and could have come face-to-face with the animal.
Director of the Icelandic Institute of Natural History Jón Gunnar Ottósson accepted it. The carcass was frozen overnight and this morning it was autopsied.
The institute’s employees will look for parasites and take samples to screen for toxic chemicals which will help scientists understand the distribution of such chemicals in Arctic regions.
The age of the bear, which was a female, will be determined—it was likely a young animal—and the carcass will be measured and weighed, Ottósson said.
He added that the bear will later be skinned and the bones cleansed. The skeleton will be preserved and the animal taxidermied.
This is not the first polar bear to be killed in Hornstrandir. In July 1917 farmers at Hornvík, who lived there while the region was still inhabited, spotted a polar bear in Haelavík.
They rowed after it around the cliff Haelavíkurbjarg and shot it on Tröllakambur, a mountain by the inlet Rekavík, where yesterday’s polar bear was also killed.
Click here to read more about the polar bear killing.