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Polar bear - The King of the Arctic

Polar bear - The King of the Arctic

One of the largest carnivores in the world

Polar Bear, King of the Arctic

The polar bear – also known as the King of the Arctic – is one of the world’s largest carnivores. The polar bear population in the Svalbard archipelago and Barents Sea is around 3,000, which exceeds the human population. On it says that «In August 2015, a survey of the Norwegian subpopulation estimated almost 1000 polar bears. Of these a little less than 300 were located in Svalbard – most of them close to the ice edge.»

The polar bear is considered a marine mammal as it spends most of its life on the drifting sea ice. Polar bear sightings are most common on the surrounding islands east of Spitsbergen, but you should be prepared to encounter a polar bear anywhere in Svalbard. Female polar bears give birth to their cubs in snow caves, and the cubs generally remain with their mother until they are around two years old. Their diet consists primarily of ringed seal, which is the most common seal species in the waters surrounding Svalbard.


Adult polar bears vary in size from 200 to 800 kg. Humans are considered alien in the polar bear habitat, and a polar bear may see us as potential prey. The polar bear is incredibly strong and even cubs weighing under 100 kg can be extremely aggressive and dangerous.

You can encounter polar bears anywhere in Svalbard all year round. Be cautious when moving outside the settlements and preferably be accompanied by a local guide.

The polar bear has been protected by international law since 1973. It is considered a criminal act to hunt, lure, pursue, feed or disturb a polar bear. Anyone who blatantly violates this provision will face strict penalties.

There are no “polar bear safaris”
Polar bears are an endangered species and are protected by law. This means there are no polar bear safaris, chases or similar in Svalbard. However, polar bears can be anywhere in Svalbard.
In winter, polar bears can be found throughout the entire archipelago, while in summer they generally follow the sea ice and migrate north-eastwards. 

Frede LamoUnfortunately, it’s impossible to state when the best time is to spot polar bears. Polar bears roam freely throughout the archipelago without any limitations, and can cover long distances in just a few days. It’s difficult to predict the best places to see them, but obviously the longer you spend in Svalbard, the better your chances of seeing polar bears. We recommend going on organised tours because the guides have extensive knowledge of Svalbard and will look after your safety out in the field.

Learn more about polar bears on the Norwegian Polar Institute’s website.

For more information about polar bears, please visit the Governor of Svalbard’s website.

Visit Svalbard Sustainable Destination Eco-Lighthouse

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