The news is depressing, I’m afraid. A twelve-year-old girl was out walking her dog on a farm near the town of Sauðárkrókur, on the Skaga fjord in Iceland, when she spotted a polar bear.
There are, however, no polar bears in Iceland. The only place the bear could have come from was Greenland, about 300 miles away. And the only way it could have arrived was atop an ice floe.
The girl alerted the authorities. A group of journalists gathered. And last Tuesday, police were “forced” to shoot the bear, saying that it was “threatening the public.” They said the bear charged a group of reporters “in a panic,” that they had “no other choice” but to kill it.
I don’t mean to be snarky with the quotation marks. It’s just that this was the second polar bear to be shot and killed in Iceland in as many weeks. With the first bear, an officer said no drugs were available to sedate it, so he consulted with the minister of the environment, who gave permission for police marksmen to kill the bear. But a veterinarian says that he himself had the drugs available in his car. He also criticized police for not closing a mountain road where people congregated after hearing news of the polar bear.
After many protests from environmentalists and animal rights groups, authorities had vowed to capture the second bear and have it shipped in a cage back to Greenland or give it to a zoo. The chief veterinarian from the Copenhagen zoo had been flown in late Tuesday to help. He named the bear Ofeig, whose name translates roughly as “he who should not die.”
The police “tried to get close to (the bear) with our vet, but they did not get close enough to shoot it with the anesthetic,” zoo spokesman Bengt Holst said. “Then the bear started running, and the police were frightened they would lose control. The bear could run very close to the populated area, so they decided to shoot it” (italics mine).
As you can see, that’s just a tad different from the police’s official stance in their press release, that the bear had actually charged the group of journalists.
That two polar bears have made their way to Iceland in recent weeks is further evidence that climate change is creating a more perilous environment for the majestic arctic animals. A warming climate means the ice — where the bears usually hunt their favorite prey, the seals — is receding and literally melting under their paws, forcing them to swim ever greater distances.
Environmental and animal conservation groups have long warned the polar bear was in danger, and recent studies indicated melting Arctic Sea ice could cut their population by two-thirds over the next 50 years. The U.S. last month listed the polar bear as a “threatened species,” meaning it is at risk of becoming “endangered” within the near future. Animals are listed as endangered when they face imminent extinction.
A Scottish tabloid ran this article:
MARAUDING polar bears could cause terror on Iceland after experts claimed global warming could bring the killer beasts across the sea.
The alert came as police there shot two bears in just two weeks.
The animals — which are not native to Iceland — are thought to have floated across the Arctic Ocean on ice platforms which broke free from Greenland.
Climate expert Thor Jakobsson said: “Since two have reached the shore, more could be on the way!“
I would laugh if it weren’t so incredibly sad.
A poor bear swims for countless miles, climbs onto an ice floe and floats nearly 300 more miles, and, exhausted and nearly starved, finds land, food (experts reported that the bear had wandered into a bird reserve and had been eating large quantities of birds’ eggs), and safety. Then . . . BLAM! Buh-bye, bear.
I’m tempted to give Ofeig a different name: Sisyphus.