Wildlife in Norway - How to stay safe

In Norway people share the country with several wildlife species which are beautiful to observe but have their own specific hazards.

Wildlife in Norway

Deer can be seen all over Norway particularly in the country areas and tundra. In deer country there are usually more than one deer so if you see one about to cross a road be alert for the second as they are usually not far away and can do a significant amount of damage to a car.

Drivers in Western Norway should be alert to red deer jumping onto the highway in late autumn and winter, often without warning. There are special signs at some of the more common crossing points to alert drivers.

Moose and Elk are also known for running out onto roads around dusk and dawn and drivers should exercise caution at these times. The elk is at its most active after heavy snowfall, at a full moon and at twilight and dawn. Drivers in Northern Norway are likely to see reindeer that also wander onto the roads and sometimes shelter in mountain tunnels, appearing suddenly. Sheep and goats are also found walking on roads and can be a hazard to traffic.

Norway has around 50 wolves which are rarely a problem for visitors. As there are only 50 or so brown bears in Norway visitors are unlikely to see one. Walkers in Northern Norway are likely to be pestered by swarms of blackfly and mosquitoes which emerge from the tundra bogs and lakes during summer. It is advisable to wear long trousers and shirts and avoid exposing the skin. Head nets are essential and if camping it is best to use mosquito netting.

Norway has one venomous snake which could be a hazard to walkers. This is the European Adder (hoggorm) which has a distinctive v shaped pattern on its back. The adder can be found all over Norway except the Arctic and its bite is rarely life threatening.

Polar Bears and Svalbard

Svalbard is located halfway between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole in the Arctic Ocean. An Arctic fairyland, Svalbard is glaciers, mountains, icy fjords, snow and... polar bears!

Around 3000 locals share the islands with roughly 2000 polar bears. As cute and fluffy they may appear, they can pose a risk to humans. Polar bears can move at an incredible speed and are not to be underestimated. They cannot be outrun by humans and are far more unpredictable than the European brown bear.

With climate change threatening polar bear habitat including shrinking pack ice and the number of tourists visiting Svalbard annually increasing, interactions between bears and humans is inevitable. It is vital to take precautions when visiting this part of Norway.

In Svalbard making contact with polar bears is strictly forbidden as it can jeopardise the safety of both humans and the bears themselves. Bears should not be approached and should also not be chased on snowmobiles or other vehicles as they will overheat quickly. Anyone traveling outside the main town area of Longyearbyen has to know how to use or travel with someone who knows how to use a gun and carry one in case there is an encounter with a polar bear. Longyearbyen is the only safe place to walk freely without the need for a gun however on the odd occasion, bears have been seen in town. Authorities have coordinated measures in place to sedate and relocate a bear in another part of the island should it wander into town.

If visitors are camping they need to carry flares and use trip wires around the perimeter of their camp. Any food and waste must be at least 100 metres away from a tent and stored in a way that it can be seen from the tent flap. In 2015, a camper from the Czech Republic was attacked in their tent by a polar bear, fortunately only sustaining minor injuries. Svalbard is 60 per cent glacier and therefore any visitors must report where they are going to the Local Governor. 

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2 Comments

  • Alezandra said

    Nice! Thanks I'm writing a book and I needed this information since it's based off of a Norway Foundation. I absolutely love Norway and hope to visit one day, this is great for travelers who are camping so they know what to expect.

  • Maria said

    I have lived in Norway for around 2 years and i remember that mosquitoes (specially the annoying tiny gnats) appear more often in the beginning to mid summer. However in late August we were camping near Bergen and we were being attacked by a massive cloud of small mosquitoes. I had a balaclava on but still they bit me around the eyes like, a lot. Would it be because Bergen is more humid than the other areas i've been (Buskerud, Hedmark) ??
    Also out of curiosity: are there poisonous spiders there?

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