Man mauled to death by polar bear 'dragged from tent while he was sleeping'

The camper mauled to death by a polar bear on a remote Norwegian island was dragged from his tent as he slept, authorities say.

Dutch national Johan Jacobus Kootte, 38, was killed as he camped at Longyearbyen, on the Svalbard archipelago where had been employed as a seasonal worker.

Local reports say the bear dragged him from his tent as he slept at around 4am in the horrific attack last Friday.

It’s believed he was still alive when rescuers attempted to save him, but later succumbed to his grisly injuries.

A devastating picture of his green tent following the attack shows it crumpled and torn open to the elements, with items strewn about the stony terrain.

A sleeping mat has been pulled yards from the tent, and traces of what a local newspaper said was blood spatter were photographed closed to the scene, where what appear to be small rock cairns or campfires are encircled by tents.



According to local newspaper Svalbardposten, six other campers were at the site but were not injured in the attack that cost Mr Kootte his life.

The bear was shot ‘several times’ and was later found dead in a car park near Longyearbyen’s airport.

Authorities have launched an investigation into the attack – the first deadly incident since a polar bear mauled a British student to death in Svalbard nearly a decade ago.

According to Svalbardposten, the six others staying at the campsite included three Germans, a Norwegian, a Finn and an Italian, who were taken to hospital but were unscathed and are receiving counselling after the tragedy.

The campers released a statement following the death saying their thoughts were with Mr Koottee’s family.

They wrote: “We now need peace and that we are allowed to mourn our friend who is dead.



“We would like to thank the people of Longyearbyen and the Governor for their efforts and support during this difficult day.”

It is believed the bear dragged Mr Kootte from the tent while he was sleeping, Svlabard’s assistant governor Sølvi Elvedahl told media.

The victim was found alive but badly injured when emergency services arrived and they attempted to rescuscitate him, Ms Elvedahl said.

But sadly he died a short time later in hospital.

Pictures of the victim, said to have been working his second season at the campsite on the High Arctic archipelago, show him posing in front of a small group of tents at the campsite.

He is the first to die since young Brit Horatio Chapple was attacked by a starving polar bear as he camped with a group of fellow students and their guides.

The 17-year-old Eton College Pupil died and four others were injured after the emaciated animal got into their campsite at the Von Post glacier, some 25 miles from Longyearbyen.



Horatio Chapple

The bear was shot dead by one of the expedition’s leaders, who was also severely injured in the attack.

An investigation later found the group had not appointed a night-watch guard on the night of the attack because of dense fog.

During the attack their gun failed to fire four times because its safety catch was engaged.

Polar bears are fiercely protected on Svalbard, where they largely coexist alongside the tiny human population without incident.

Wildlife tourism is a key activity on the archipelago in the High Arctic, where polar bears are facing declining sea ice in a threat to their seal hunting habitats.

Carrying a firearm is mandatory for anyone straying outside residential areas.

But shooting a polar bear is not permitted except as a last resort.



As a response to tragedies including Horatio’s death, people exploring Svalbard are typically recommended to take precautions such as flares and explosives, electrified trip-wires, and prganise night-watches and guard dogs for trips beyond Longyearbyen.

Polar bear defence tactics are strictly regulated, and whenever an animal is shot it triggers an investigation into the circumstances.

Concerns have escalated in Svalbard in recent years as bears increasingly encroached on villages, in what climate change experts have warned is a result of declining sea ice on the archipelago threatening their hunting habitats.

On January 1, a polar bear was shot dead in Longyearbyen by police officers after several failed attempts to scare the bear out of the populated area.

Earlier last week ahead of the deadly attack, Svalbard’s governor’s office used a helicopter when trying to chase away a bear with a cub from Hjorthamn, a cabin area across the fjord from Longyearbyen.

According to the BBC, authorities say the bear that attacked Mr Kootee was a three-year-old male whose mother had been airlifted with her cub away from Longyearbyen on Monday.



The incident was not believed linked to the attack as polar bears are considered grown enough to be able to fend for themselves once they reach two years of age.

Two days later the team from the Norwegian Polar Institute that had moved the mother and cub spotted the juvenile male near Longyearbyen and ushered it away with their helicopter after it was spotted breaking into cabins not far from the city.

There are nearly 3,000 people and up to 1,000 polar bears living on the archipelago.

Polar bear researcher Jon Aars told NRK in Norway last week that humans are not the bears’ favoured prey, but Svalbard locals are vigilant knowing the predators can stray into human territory out of desperation.

“At this time of year, polar bears have extra challenges in obtaining food.

“It has been a long time since there has been ice in the main hunting area, so there is less access to seals.

“So, the polar bear spends more time on land to find alternative food.”

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