Only two weeks after a polar bear came ashore in Skagafjördur fjord , a second one swam ashore just a few kilometers north. Polar bear visits are rare in Iceland, so two bears in less then a month is quite extraordinary.
The polar bear was spotted by the farmers at Hraun in Skagatá, the northeast of Skagafjördur, where the last bear came ashore. The daughter of the farmers was at the sheep shed and noticed that the family’s dog suddenly ran barking towards the eider ducks hatching field were the bear was feasting on eggs. The family managed to get in their house safely and the dog was saved by the family’s ploughman.
When the polar bear reached the shore on June 3 the police could not manage to contain the animal, and a crowd of spectators quickly gathered at an unsafe distance from the bear. It was decided to euthanize the bear, since there was no equipment available to catch it live and the police could not risk loosing sight of it.
The minister of the environment, Thórunn Sveinbjarnardóttir, released an announcement stating that this time every thing would be done to catch the bear alive. Experts from Denmark flew over immediately with a proper cage and all the necessary equipment and were transported to Skagatá by helicopter.
The bear that visited Hraun was calm and had enough to eat at the farm’s eider duck fields. After a mouthful of eggs and chicks and a good night sleep, the bear got uneasy and headed towards the sea. By that time the experts had arrived and were ready to try to shoot it with tranquilizers. However, the bear was too quick to reach the sea and when it was clear that it was swimming away, it was euthanized, since authorities did not want to risk the bear reaching shore unnoticed some other place.
“If we had lost the bear at sea, we’d never have found it again. There was unfortunately no way to follow it” commented Vagn Stefánsson, police chief at Saudárkrókur.
“The police chief had no other recourse. This was the correct decision” said Carsten Grøndahl, Danish zoologist from the Copenhagen Zoo.
This was the first time an attempt was made to catch a polar bear live in Iceland. The ministry of the environment is working on an operation plan for future polar bear visits based on yesterday’s outcome.