Polar bears have featured prominently in Icelandic news lately, since two of them were spotted (and eventually killed “for reasons of national security”) north in Skagafjörður. However, one burning question remains: How do you react if you encounter a polar bear on a relaxing stroll through Skagafjörður?
Even if they are deliciously cute, polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are pretty scary animals. Typically weighing a hefty 4-600 kilos, polar bears are the largest land carnivores, and they need to eat 50-75 seals annually. They can go from 0-30 km/h in an instant, their teeth are jagged and their claws are sharp. And while they don’t rate people highly as a source of nutrition, they will not hesitate to attack if they feel threatened. And if they are hungry, they will eat you, unless your name is Chuck Norris. Here are some helpful tips:
ONE: Polar bears will usually avoid confrontation with humans and run away, even though they are very curious. Try and assess the situation properly, a very young or very old bears that have trouble finding prey are more likely to attack than others, for instance. Under no circumstance should you assume that the bear will avoid you.
TWO: If you spot a polar bear in the area, it is highly likely that another one is close by.
THREE: A polar bear is likely to attack if it feels surprised or in danger. If you can’t avoid them, make sure they spot you at a distance. Do not appear suddenly at a short distance, and do not sneak up on them. You will be killed.
FOUR: Do not look a polar bear in the eye – that is an act of aggression. Make yourself visible if the bear moves towards you and try and make some noise by shouting, clapping or any other means available to you. This sometimes works to scare them off.
FIVE: Even if you are carrying a gun, hesitate to use it. A single shot is highly unlikely to down a polar bear. It is more likely to piss him off.
SIX: If the bear keeps coming, fire warning shots in its general direction (but not at it). Continue this for a while, this should be enough to drive the bear away.
SEVEN: A saying about bears and small handguns goes: “If you bring a handgun for bear-protection, remember to always travel with someone who runs slower than you.” That says a lot.
EIGHT: If you are forced to shoot at a polar bear (which should always be a last resort measure), aim for the chest, below the neck, or shoulders. Their heads are surprisingly small and hard. Keep shooting until it is perfectly still. Then leave and alert authorities.
NINE: If none of this works, you are truly fucked. Sorry.
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