Thursday, June 5, 2008

He Bear-ly Made It To Iceland

OK, now, don't panic or anything, but for the first time in twenty years, a polar bear has been seen in Iceland. I said don't panic! There's no cause for alarm. Perhaps a little (short lived) excitement, but no cause for alarm. The first time in twenty years that a polar bear shows up in Iceland and the authorities knew how to deal with just such a situation. They shot it. Wait. What?

The Icelandic Police (yes, I'm sure that's exactly what they're called.) said that they "shot and killed a polar bear that was threatening the public." OK, this IS Iceland we're talking about. Define "public". How "public" can it be in Iceland? I'll admit, I don't know a lot about the land, but I'm envisioning ice, lots of ice, and not a lot of folks hanging around the ice all the time. But it could be different, what do I know? And although they say that the bear was "threatening the public" it was spotted by a farmer. And while I realize that Iceland IS different than the United States, I don't really think of "farms" around here as being all that "public".

The doomed polar bear (Hey! Not my wording! That was the wording from the fine folks over there at The Sydney Morning Herald who captioned the photo, not me! So just back off!) weighed approximately 250 kilograms (Ah, geez. Let's see, 250 kilograms would be...carry the one....about 550 pounds. Stupid metric system.). It is assumed that the bear swum to the shore from some drifting ice, presumably thinking that he'd be safer on the shore than not. Sadly, he was wrong.


The Icelandic Police had come up with a plan to just anesthetize the bear, but according to the Superintendent Stefan Vang Stefansson (most likely English translation: Steven V. Stevenson), "There was a lot of fog in the area and the bear was moving into the fog. We couldn't risk losing him and there was no time to wait for anaesthetics, so we had to shoot him. It was for the safety of the public." Fog? Well, someone had to have seen the bear in the first place to know it was even there, right? The "fog" didn't seem to matter then. I suppose that having this drill once every twenty years or so might have contributed to the perceived cluelessness of these workers.

Now, even though the last time the likes of Iceland saw the likes of a polar bear was in 1988, the environmental ministry of Iceland (who knew?) has determined that when the polar bears DO travel to Iceland, they have usually travelled "most of the way on icebergs from the east coast of Greenland." I don't know how they would have determined that, due to the seemingly very, very small sample to observe, so I'm guessing they just checked their passports after they docked but before the de-berged.

When word got out that the first polar bear in Iceland in twenty years had a very short lived visit, the Icelandic residents gave a rather chilly reception to those who participated in this fiasco. So, in response, the environmental ministry said it would "review the incident to see if it could avoid shooting the next bear that lands in the country." How accommodating of them. Tune in again May 2028 to see how that turns out for them.

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