Elk hunter killed by bear

Instead of the usual flood of amusing anecdotes and socio-anthropologic commentary, the elk hunting season has so far only been marked in the news by the tragic death of a hunter at the hands of a bear. It's thought to be the first such case in Sweden for 102 years.

The 40 year old victim set off alone on Saturday morning in Nausta, near Jokkmokk in the far north of Sweden. When he failed to return in the evening, friends attempted to contact him by mobile phone and radio on Saturday night and all through Sunday. When their efforts failed, they called in the police yesterday morning.

A police search party found the man with the help of dogs. His body lay within 50 metres of a bear den. The bear suddenly appeared and was aggressive, rising up on its hind legs and preventing the police from retrieving the body. Late yesterday afternoon, a team of hunters with dogs attempted to fly to the scene to shoot the bear and bring back the body but had to abandon the attempt due to bad weather.

“According to the officers who were on the scene, there’s no doubt that the man had been mauled by a bear,” said Karl-Erik Bröst of Jokkmokk police.

Rescuers in a helicopter could tell that the bear was also injured. It’s thought that the 40 year old managed to fire a shot in defence. Lars Lundman of Luleå police thought that it may have been the victim’s dog who first came into contact with the bear:

“Sometimes the dog chases a bear, but realises it has to give up and goes back to the owner. Now it’s the bear chasing the dog and things like this can happen.”

A further attempt will be made today to retrieve the body and shoot the bear. Options being considered are to smoke the animal out of its den.

The 40 year old was an experienced hunter who was familiar with the area. Friends and family were shocked at the news. He had three children and was popular and well-known in his village.

“This is a huge tragedy. He was a great guy and a great dad,” said a member of his hunting club.

Attacks of any sort by bears on people are rare in Sweden. A recent report by the Scandinavian Bear Project concluded that Scandinavian species were significantly less aggressive than their North American cousins. However, Henrik Falk of the Swedish Association for Hunting, believes serious incidents such as this will become more common:

“We know that the predator population is increasing and the more bears there are in our forests, the greater the risk of coming across one at an inappropriate moment.”

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Expressen, Aftonbladet