They Shoot Polar Bears Don’t They?

Second polar bear makes it to Iceland and is then shotFor the second time in two weeks a polar bear was sighted in Iceland – and then shot dead.

Polar bear sightings are relatively rare on the island nation (at least until two weeks ago) since getting to Iceland means bears are forced to swim hundreds of miles through icy waters far from their typical Arctic habitat.

Due to harsh criticism after the first polar bear was shot two weeks ago, authorities in Iceland said they would attempt to subdue and capture the second bear after it was discovered by a young girl walking her dog.

The chief veterinarian for the Copenhagen Zoo was flown in to help wrangle the animal late last Tuesday, but it all came to naught later that night. Police and the vet tried to get close enough to the bear to shoot it with an anaesthetiser but as they approached the bear ran in a panic – apparently toward a group of reporters. Afraid of losing control of the situation and having the bear eat a journalist, police “decided to shoot it”.

Copenhagen Zoo spokesman Bengt Holst said that Icelandic authorities made the right decision.

“It was a security problem” Holst told reporters (“Indeed!” is what I can imagine reporters dumb enough to be unprotected and in range of the poor animal).

Two polar bears making the icy swim hundreds of miles to Iceland in as many weeks “lends credence” to biologist’s determination that climate change is is destroying the arctic habitat of the polar bear, forcing them to swim farther and farther afield in search of their typical diet of ringed or bearded seals.

While I think a single occurrence, even two incidents back-to-back, of a polar bear making the unusual journey to Iceland is not in and of itself  definitive proof of anything, it certainly serves as pieces to the puzzle; clues to either take seriously or dismiss without thought. My research indicates there have been some 600 recorded sightings of Polar Bears in Iceland. The last one in 1993, and before that in 1988.

Beyond the needless death of two great animals, it is also frustrating to see the deniers and skeptic “wanna-bes” coming out of the woodwork on the heels of this story (as I’ve said before, true skepticism requires a logical thought process and some notion of a well-formed argument).

Unfounded statements like “There are 3 times as many polar bears as there were 50 years ago” – Or assertions that “Polar bears are growing in numbers” or that “…the world hasn’t warmed since 1998” (these last two from Andrew Bolt who simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about and isn’t afraid to show it) are just a few examples of how denialism is sadly alive and well, and unfortunately riding in on the backs of two polar bears that came to a tragic end.

Sources and Further Reading
Science Daily
The Age
Global Warming is





Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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