Norway polar bear's toothache could have caused attack

16th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

The polar bear that mauled a British teenager to death on August 5 in the Norwegian Arctic may have attacked because he was suffering with a toothache, Norway's veterinary institute said Tuesday.

While examining the 250-kilogram (550-pound) male that was shot and killed after attacking the campsite of 13 people, the institute discovered that several of the bear's teeth were "very damaged" before the attack.

"Under two of the canines and many of the incisors, the nerves were exposed. This causes serious pain and changes the behaviour of bears," Bjoernar Ytrehus, the veterinarian who examined the bear's head, said in a statement.

The damage to the teeth suggests the bear was old, sick or injured and therefore forced to eat vegetables rather than seals, a polar bear's normal prey. Eating vegetables may have caused the damage to the teeth.

"This could be a factor that contributed to the attack," Ytrehus told AFP.

"Starving and suffering, a bear is more unpredictable and aggressive than normal," he said.

Travelling with a British Schools Exploring Society expedition, the 13 people were camped on the Von Postbreen glacier on Spitsbergen, north of the Norwegian mainland.

The bear killed Horatio Chapple, 17, and injured four other members of the group.

The father of one of the injured boys previously told the BBC that some of the bears teeth were embedded in his son's skull during the attack and had to be removed.

According to Norway's TV2, it was the first deadly polar bear attack in the Svalbard archipelago since 1995.

© 2011 AFP

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