Visits to Iceland Part of Natural Life Patterns of Polar Bears Skip to content

Visits to Iceland Part of Natural Life Patterns of Polar Bears

Zoologist Aevar Petersen said visits to Iceland are part of the natural life pattern of polar bears and believes that shooting all bears that come to the country is the wrong policy, a legal violation even.

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

“They are under preservation. Killing them should be an absolute exception. So it shouldn’t be the general rule to kill every single polar bear that comes to the country. If that is the government’s conclusion, the laws must be amended,” Petersen told visir.is.

He added that polar bears can feed on both grass and seaweed and are usually afraid of humans; noise is often enough to repel them.

With increased knowledge of the behavior of polar bears, attacks on people have dropped significantly; in Canada it has been 22 years since a polar bear last killed a human and in Alaska only one death has been reported in the last 30 years, visir.is reports.

Petersen admits that polar bears can pose a threat to humans as they can kill a man with one blow. However, that doesn’t justify the shooting of every single bear. “I think they should rather be sedated. It’s a simple procedure.”

If their condition is poor they might have to be terminated, Petersen reasoned, adding that it’s important to make a strategy.

Healthy polar bears could be taken to the Reykjavík Zoo, he suggested, be brought back to Greenland or released with a GPS monitor to see whether they return on their own. “I think that many of these animals, if they are in good condition, will return.”

When asked whether Icelanders cannot simply live in harmony with polar bears like people do in Canada, Greenland and Russia, Petersen replied: “We don’t know how.”

Yet he considers Iceland to be part of the bears’ natural habitat. “I believe so. However, we are on the outermost limit.” Petersen pointed out that at least 600 polar bear arrivals have been recorded in Iceland through the centuries.

Therefore, they must be considered natural. “It is not absolute exceptions. It is part of the natural life patterns of polar bears,” he concluded.

Click here to read more about last week’s visit from a polar bear.

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