July 29 (UPI) -- A polar bear was shot and killed after attacking a cruise ship guard on an Arctic archipelago in Norway on Saturday.
A second guard fatally shot the polar bear after it attacked a guard assigned to protect tourists from the MS Bremen cruise ship on Svalbard's northernmost island, German cruise company Hapag-Lloyd Cruises said, according to the BBC.
The injured guard was airlifted to a hospital in the town of Longyearbyen with non-life-threatening head injuries and remained in stable condition.
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises said all ships in the area are required to employ guards to protect passengers from polar bears on tours.
"There are very strict rules here as the islands are visited by many polar bears in the summer, so we all need to be vigilant when we are ashore," a post by a guide on the company's website stated.
News of the shooting was criticized on social media by observers who blamed the cruise line for intruding on the polar bear's habitat.
Tourism in the area has increased in recent years and is at its highest in the summer months. A Longyearbyen port schedule showed that 18 cruise ships will be docking at the port this week, Sky News reported.
Scientists believe human activity and climate change have contributed to an increase in polar bear attacks, which are most likely to occur when the animals are very hungry.
Rising temperature have forced polar bears out of their natural icy habitats and closer to human settlements, reducing their fear of humans.