Polar bear shot dead in Arctic after injuring cruise ship worker, sparking criticism

A dead polar bear lays at the beach at Sjuøyane north of Spitzbergen, Norway, on July 28, 2018.
Gustav Busch Arntsen | AFP | Getty Images
A dead polar bear lays at the beach at Sjuøyane north of Spitzbergen, Norway, on July 28, 2018.

A polar bear that injured a cruise ship guard on an Arctic archipelago was shot dead by another of the ship's workers, Norwegian authorities said.

The incident Saturday sparked criticism that tourists intruded in the wilderness and then killed one of the reasons they were there.

The attack occurred when tourists from the MS Bremen cruise ship landed on the most-northern island of Svalbard archipelago, according to Joint Rescue Coordination for Northern Norway. The remote region is known for glaciers, reindeer and polar bears.

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The German Hapag Lloyd Cruises company, which operates the MS Bremen, told The Associated Press that two polar bear guards from their ship went on the island and one of them "was attacked by a polar bear and injured on his head."

The polar bear was then shot dead "in an act of self-defense" by another guard, spokeswoman Negar Etminan said.

"The incident occurred when the four-person polar bear guard team, who are always on board for these expedition cruises as required by law, prepared for a shore leave," the company said in a post on Facebook.

But the guards failed to spot one bear. After it attacked, other guards shot it, the company said.

"There had to be intervention for reasons of self-defense and to protect the life of the attacked person," the company said. "We are extremely sorry that this incident has happened."

The injured man was taken by helicopter to the town of Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen island.

"He was flown out, was responsive, and is currently undergoing medical treatment," Etminan said, adding that the victim was not in a life-threatening condition.

Adam Hart, a biologist and BBC broadcaster, tweeted: "Tourism...again proving itself to be harmful to wildlife."

British comedian Ricky Gervais tweeted: "'Let's get too close to a polar bear in its natural environment and then kill it if it gets too close.' Morons."