Polar bear shot and killed after attacking cruise ship guard

Polar bear shot dead after it launched surprise attack on guard

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

The death of the bear at the hands of another cruise ship employee drew condemnation on social media, with some calling it "abhorrent" and others questioning killing the polar bear for "acting like a wild animal".

Another posted: "So - at a time when polar bears are hungry, when there is no sea ice, you put yourself in the middle of its dinner plate and are surprised by its reaction and shoot the bear?"

The worker, a designated polar bear guard, suffered a head injury as he led tourists off the ship and was unresponsive when he was airlifted for medical treatment, Sky News reported. "Customers need to start asking themselves if they feel good about a native bear being shot dead to enable their selfish intrusion into this attractive creature's home", wrote one upset poster.

In recent years, the area has become a popular destination for arctic tourism, especially during the summer months.

"He was flown out, was responsive, and is now undergoing medical treatment", spokeswoman Negar Etminan said of their employee, adding that the victim was not in a life-threatening condition.

It's mandatory that cruise ships travelling in the northern region have polar bear guards on board.

The German cruise company said a second guard shot the bear "in self-defence".

"Polar bears are only observed from aboard ships, from a safe distance", the company says.

The man was a crew member onboard MS Bremen operated by Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. To prepare for a shore leave, the polar bear guards go ashore in advance after sighting the landing site as a group and without passengers. In 2015, Czech Jakub Moravec was pulled out of the tent by a polar bear, but escaped with slight damage.

Scientists believe human activity and climate change have contributed to an increase in polar bear attacks, which are most likely to occur when the animals are very hungry.

The 3,000 or so polar bears living on the main island of the Svalbard archipelago outnumber humans, according to the Norwegian government.

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