Polar bears are real and they are in the area outside of town. There are a bit more than 2,000 people on Spitsbergen Island and about 2,000 polar bears. We heard the advice that if you are out of town then you should be armed and proficient in its use. Some people like to kayak/camp. The locals take specific actions to minimize the threat from polar bears when they do this. See local resources if you plan to kayak or hike into the back country.
At first I could not believe it, but it definitely is true:
Polar Bears are an acute danger in Svalbard - and even in settlements like Longyearbyen you are not safe! There is a warning out that you should always carry a rifle when leaving the settlement - and that is no joke at all! All over you can hear about encounters with polar bears - and many times they are fatal! To the people - not to the bears!
Polar Bears are the largest land carnivore. A male polar bear weigh about 350 to more than 650 kg and are about 2.5 to 3 m long. Normally Polar Bears are not to be found in the centre of Longyearbyen, but occationally they get to the vicinity of the city. This means one should never leave the centre of Longyearbyen without firearms. The only Polar bear I saw was this one in the reception of the SAS hotel.
Our tour guides carried many pistols and riffles.
We did not have to use it during our whole tour.
The thousands of polar bears that prowl the Svalbard archipelago, the huge and aggressive animals rarely come into Longyearbyen.
But local authorities recommend that visitors who head out of town take along high-powered rifles this is a must and it's the law.
Specaily for the safety of the people and also to scare of the mighty bear when you see any from far.
A sign welcomed us at the airport: WARNING - A LOT OF POLAR BEARS HAVE BEEN OBSERVED THIS WINTER ALSO IN THE LONGYEARBYEN AREA. BE CAREFUL - THE POLAR BEAR ATTACKS WITHOUT WARNING!
Be Alert. Detect bears before they are a problem. Polar bears are unpredictable, and seeing one early decreases chances of a dangerous encounter.
Keep away from food sources, keep a clean camp. Reduce food and garbage smells.
Be careful around open water leads, or mammal carcasses--places where you may encounter a bear.
Carry a weapon, travel with others, do not approach bears for photography or other reasons.
Do not get between a female and her cubs.
The risk of running into a polarbear inside Longyearbyen is as good as none, but when you go for a walk outside the village, always remember to bring your rifle with you.