Polar Bear shot dead by cruise guard

On the 28 July 2018 a polar bear was shot dead by a cruise guard in Svalbard.

As the organiser of private polar bear trips to Svalbard we are greatly saddened by this news.

Stephen Mills our host naturalist has this to say; 

“As you may know, I take groups up to Svalbard for Spencer Scott Travel, joining smallish ships run by Oceanwide. I think that responsible tourism (as far as anything we do is truly responsible) is a valuable way for people to express their concern and interest in nature. As a film-maker I always thought our role was to promote that interest so that the general public would come to care more about the environment. I think we have succeeded. There is far far more general interest than there was when I was a boy 60 years ago. But that interest and the growing wish to see animals in the wild comes at a price, a price of disturbance and pollution. 

It is very sad that a bear has been killed. I don’t know the precise circumstances, other than what I’ve read in the reports. All I can say is that on all the trips I have made to Svalbard and the polar region, I have been impressed by the careful professionalism of the full-time guides. And the clients are almost always genuine nature lovers. We would absolutely never make a landing if a bear were present. So I assume this was a tragic accident.

Despite all the people who are visiting Svalbard, such accidents are, as far as I know, extremely rare. In my opinion, it would be very sad to condemn visitors and curtail the joy that people get from seeing Svalbard and the ice, because of rare accidents. 

But…if there is evidence of ships behaving badly those operators should lose their licenses to function in Svalbard’s waters. There is an unethical subset in the wider world of wildlife photography and tourism, the “how close can we get” brigade, (RIP Steve Irwin) who can do real damage.”



Stephen Mills

Wildlife Host, Wildlife Research, Journalism, Photo





Thank you Stephen – we couldn’t agree more and I am sure had you been on board that vessel you would have prevented any one disembarking in the presence of the bear and that lovely creature would still be alive and well. Liz Drake, Spencer Scott Travel


Stephen Mills is hosting a responsible Polar Bear & Arctic Wildlife Cruise to Svalbard 2 – 12 July 2019