May 28, 2023
Polar Bear Wikimedia Commons from naturpics online 2010 705

Norway – On February 3, 2003, a man, his wife, and two daughters were returning to their house at remote Austfjordneset, in the Svalbard archipelago,  far north of the arctic circle. They left the dog team at the shore of the fjord. The two girls raced up to the building and found a scene of disorder. When the man arrived, he immediately suspected a bear. He had a revolver, probably a .44 magnum, but we are not told the caliber.

Austfjyordneset has a trapper/hunters cabin about 100 miles north of Longyearbyen, Norway.

Austfjyordneset has a trapper/hunters cabin about 100 miles north of Longyearbyen, Norway.

The incident is one of those uncovered by AmmoLand News in a Freedom of Information Act request.  Names had been redacted from the information received. Much of the information was translated into English. It has been lightly edited for readability. A fictitious name has been substituted for the redacted name in this incident.

This incident was numbered 188 in the FOIA response.

There was too little snow between the fjord ice/ shore and the station, so they left the dog team at the shore. The daughters ran up to the station at once without waiting for the parents. When Arthur came up to the station both the girls were standing and watching food scattered around right in front of the main building. The girls also made him aware of one of the dog houses that was knocked over. He thought there might be a bear around but wasn’t sure, so he went around the building to look. He only walked a few meters before he saw the side of a bear standing close to the building. He pulled back fast and gathered his family inside. The bear didn’t seem to have noticed that there were people around.

Arthur wanted to prevent the bear from getting inside the building. When he came in to the workshop he could hear the bear rummaging. He wasn’t sure if it was already inside or not. He opened the door to the woodshed, with the revolver cocked and ready. When he came in to the shed he found himself face to face with the bear. The bear had his head trough the window. It seemed aggressive and tried to get in. Arthur felt the situation was very threatening. Acting on instinct, he shot the bear in the head through the window.

The bear pulled back without Arthur being able to tell if it was hit or not. He went outside and found the bear 10-15m away with a lot of blood on its head. He understood he needed to kill the bear and fired 4 more shots towards the forepart of the bear. His wife came out. He told her to get the shotgun. When he got it he checked that the ammunition was slugs and fire 2 shots towards the heart of the bear, that fell over and died.

It is difficult to imagine a more primal scene than a man protecting his wife and children from an enormous, hungry bear.

In 2003, polar bear populations in Svalbard had been protected from hunting and trapping for 28 years. They had significantly increased since hunting was outlawed in 1973. Polar bears had been commercially hunted and trapped in Svalbard for hundreds of years, with the heyday of commercial hunting from 1870 to 1973. During that century of unregulated trapping and hunting, roughly 300 bears a year, or about 30,000 of the bears, had been harvested for their fat and skins. Svalbard has one of the highest concentrations of polar bears on the planet.  Svalbard is part of the Barents Sea sub-population of polar bears, with an estimated population of 2,650 polar bears in 2004.

For over a century, about 300 bears a year were taken. It looks pretty close to “sustainable” by definition. In Svalbard, it is illegal to leave the main town, Longyearbyen, without a high-powered rifle, shotgun, or pistol of sufficient power to be adequate protection against polar bears. Pistols of .44 magnum power, or greater, are acceptable. Proof of proficiency is required. No person, who has been adequately armed, has been killed by a polar bear in Svalbard since 1973.

About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

Dean Weingarten

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