A polar bear was shot and killed after attacking a cruise ship employee who was leading tourists off a ship on an Arctic archipelago on Saturday, officials said.
The attack took place after the MS Bremen cruise ship landed on the most northern island of the Svalbard archipelago, a region located between mainland Norway and the North Pole, the Joint Rescue Coordination for Northern Norway said on Twitter.
The German Hapag Lloyd Cruises company, which operates the MS Bremen, told The Associated Press that two polar bear guards from their ship went on the island and one of them "was attacked by a polar bear and injured on his head."
The polar bear was then shot dead "in an act of self-defense" by the second guard, spokeswoman Negar Etminan told the AP.
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The worker, a designated polar bear guard, suffered a head injury as he led tourists off the ship and was unresponsive when he was airlifted for medical treatment, Sky News reported. Etminan said the victim did not appear to suffer life-threatening injuries.
According to Hapag Lloyd Cruises, all of its cruise ships traveling in the region are obliged to have polar bear guards aboard.
Arctic tourism to the region has risen sharply in the past few years and is now in high season, as people travel to visit the remote terrain, glaciers, reindeer and polar bears. A Longyearbyen port schedule reviewed by the AP showed that 18 cruise ships will be docking at the Arctic port in the next week.
This was not the first time a polar bear attack took place in Norway. In 2011, a British student died on a school expedition to Svalbard after an animal dragged him away by the head, according to Sky News.
The animals typically prey on seals, and are known to be "masters of their environment" due to having no natural enemies, according to National Geographic.
"These powerful predators typically prey on seals. In search of this quarry they frequent areas of shifting, cracking ice where seals may surface to breathe air," National Geographic notes. "They also stalk ice edges and breathing holes. If the opportunity presents itself, polar bears will also consume carcasses, such as those of dead whales. "
Last month, a 31-year-old Canadian man was killed while protecting his children from a polar bear in a popular Canadian fishing and hunting spot. Aaron Gibbons was on Sentry Island, located on the west coast of Hudson Bay in northeastern Canada, when he and his children encountered a polar bear
Gibbons, who was unarmed at the time, stood in front of his children to protect them from the animal.
"Definitely Aaron died a hero; he protected his children," Gibbons' cousin, Eric Anoee, told CBC News . "It's [the] right word to say right now."
Fox News' Katherine Lam and the Associated Press contributed to this report.