A bit after noon on February 27 at Vestpynten in the Svalbard Archipelago (administered by Norway), far north of the arctic circle, a polar bear was shot during a conflict with people and dogs. Vestpynten is a small village in the Archipelago roughly 90 miles North and a bit West of Longyerbyen.
The incident report was uncovered with a Freedom of information Act (FOIA) request by AmmoLand. Individual names have been redacted. The report was translated into English, so it has been edited for readability, and fictitious names have been substituted. From the FOIA account, incident 162:
The bear was observed around 12-13 hours by Joan and Jill at the first cabin on Vestpynten after the camping place. The next cabin is Ralph. They saw the bear on the shore, walking towards Ralph’s cabin. The dogs (8) Ralph had with him had warned him about the bear and he started taking them inside. To the witnesses on the other cabin it looked like the bear was smelling the dogs and getting interested. Ralph said he had 3 dogs left outside when the bear arrived at the cabin. The witnesses only saw 1. Ralph tells that the bear had a dark spot on the belly, maybe from oil spill and that it was very aggressive. He went to get a special weapon, “rubber-bullet-gun”. At about 1m distance he fired one shot at the bear. He think it hit the bear in the side. Joan couldn’t see the weapon properly, but she thought it was a pistol because he was holding it with one hand. She could not see it if the bear reacted after the first shot, but she said that he fired one more shot and that the bear then jumped and ran away towards the sea. Ralph himself claims he only fired one shot. Jill also thought she saw Ralph fire 2 shots but she wasn’t certain. She was certain that he didn’t use a rifle/ shotgun sized weapon, but a smaller type of weapon.
The rubber-bullet-gun was never shown to the police, and at the next interview, Ralph had destroyed it.
The rubber-bullet-gun was purchased in Canada 20 years before. The same goes for the ammunition. The day of the incident was the first time Ralph used the gun, and it was the last of the ammo. 20 year old rubber bullets can get hard as rock and since it was fired at very close range it might have made serious injuries to the bear. Ralph also had a .357 revolver. Ralph claimed it was inside the cabin when he shot at the bear.
The bear was searched for with a helicopter over a large area, but was never found. The bear might have swam over Isfjorden, over to Revneset/ Hiorthamn or towards Bjørndalen, or, and most probably, was so badly injured that it died/ drowned while swimming…
It is left to the readers to consider if Ralph used a .357 magnum revolver or a rubber bullet gun single shot type pistol. Either way, it was a handgun/pistol and will be classified as “unknown” in the data.
It proved effective as the bear was driven off.
Polar bear conflicts seem to be primarily predatory. Because people/dogs are not commonly found in the natural habitat of polar bears, the bears usually approach with some caution. Bears that indiscriminately attack potentially dangerous prey do not last long. Black bear attacks are also usually predatory. Both polar bears and black bears seem more likely to be driven off when wounded compared to grizzly/brown bears.
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.