No Polar Bear Rescue Strategy in Iceland Skip to content

No Polar Bear Rescue Strategy in Iceland

The Environment Agency of Iceland has no rescue strategy for polar bears that wander off to Iceland and so the stray polar bear that was sighted in the remote Hornstrandir region in the West Fjords yesterday was shot immediately.

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A taxidermied polar bear at the district museum in Húsavík. Photo by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir.

“It seems to me that it was the right decision and fortunately it was done professionally so the animal didn’t suffer, which is important,” Mördur Árnason, chairman of the Althingi parliament’s Environment Committee, told visir.is.

“There was no way to catch the animal to take it back or do anything else with it,” he added, pointing out that polar bears are dangerous and that the bear in Hornstrandir had moved very quickly.

The Environment Agency of Iceland has sent suggestions to the Ministry for the Environment on how to react to the arrival of polar bears, stating that they should be killed as a general rule, Morgunbladid reports.

However, a rescue strategy is not out of the question. A polar bear that arrived at the Skagi peninsula in north Iceland in June 2008 was supposed to be caught alive. Equipment was moved to the site, which was costly, but in the end it was considered necessary to terminate the animal.

Yesterday police authorities determined that the safety of people might be in danger and therefore the polar bear was killed.

Even though it was located in an uninhabited area, it might have swam across the fjord Ísafjardardjúp and walked ashore in Ísafjördur, Hnífsdalur or Bolungarvík, Chief Constable of the West Fjords Önundur Jónsson, who directed the action, explained to ruv.is.

Mayor of Reykjavík Jón Gnarr told visir.is that he regrets the polar bear killing. “As an animal protectionist I find it sad that this is still our only option when polar bears swim ashore.”

“The Best Party has opened a charity website with the goal to collect donations so that a shelter for stray polar bears who wander to Iceland can be made,” he added. The website is called: reykjavikpolarbearproject.org.

The carcass of the polar bear, which was a female, was transported to Reykjavík where it will be autopsied by employees of the Icelandic Institute of Natural History. The skeleton and skin will be preserved so that it can be taxidermied.

Click here to read more about the polar bear shooting.

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