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Polar Bear Attacks Tourist in Norway, Later Shot Dead

Mar 19, 2015 01:49 PM EDT
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A wandering polar bear attacked a Czech tourist in a tent on an Arctic island off Norway on Thursday, on the eve of a total solar eclipse, and while the victim luckily only sustained minor injuries, the bear was not so fortunate.

Thousands of tourists from around the globe have traveled to Svalbard, a remote Norwegian archipelago, as well as the nation of the Faroe Islands, to witness a total solar eclipse set to take place on Friday.

Lodging on Svalbard has been sold out for years for the eclipse, as it's one of the few places from which the rare event can be seen (it is located about 800 miles from the North Pole). And while visitors are often reminded that polar bears roam, 37-year-old Jakub Moravec did not quite expect one to roam right into his tent.

"It was a very big surprise," Moravec, from the Czech Republic, told ITV News from his hospital bed. "I'm very lucky."

Police spokesman Vidar Arnesen said the man was among a group of six camping north of the main town of Longyearbyen. And then unexpectedly, in the early hours of Thursday morning, Moravec was awoken by a curious polar bear in his tent. He managed to fend off the intruder, narrowly escaping with injuries to his face and arms. No one else was injured in the attack.

Another person in the group, Zuzana Hakova, told local media her mother shot three times at the bear, prompting the animal to flee. It was eventually found and killed by authorities, according to The Associated Press (AP).

While some would be shaken up about the incident, Moravec hopes to be out of the hospital in time for the solar phenomenon.

"I'd gladly go out to the mountains on Svalbard again," he said.

The bear had gotten through a fence put up by the tourists around their camp. And like the roughly 2,000 visitors on Svalbard, the bear was probably just cold, looking for a warm place to hide out. Temperatures are expected to be around -18 degrees Celsius (zero Fahrenheit) on Friday, with partly cloudy skies.

This is the first reported polar bear attack in the region since 2011, when a British teenager was killed. On average, three bears a year are shot in self-defense by people on Svalbard.

The area is considered one of the best places on Earth to see polar bears, and attracts many tourists who want to see these endangered animals up close. Polar bears, National Geographic notes, can reach up to 8 feet long and weigh up to 1,600 pounds. Unlike some other bear species, polar bears typically don't fear humans, which make them particularly dangerous.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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