The rugged landscape of Norway is home to some of the world’s most incredible wildlife. The thick forests, wild mountains, endless coastline, and arctic ice floes, house some of the rarest and most beautiful animals in Europe.
A trip to Norway is a chance to see animals that you don’t get to see in many other places. You can go whale watching, look for puffins and seals, wild cats, wolves, and walruses, and try to catch a glimpse of the enigmatic arctic fox. And who hasn’t dreamt of seeing a polar bear out in the wild?
But these rare and beautiful creatures are wild animals, and many of them can be dangerous. So here’s our list of some of the most dangerous animals to watch out for in Norway.
The Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard is one of the few places in the world where you can see polar bears in their natural habitat. Because of this unique opportunity, many tourists flock there each year, hoping to glimpse these much-loved creatures. However, despite their endangered status and often lovable depiction, polar bears are probably the most dangerous animals in Norway.
The largest bear species on earth, adult male polar bears can weigh over 700kg and stand up to 11ft tall on their hind legs. They are powerful apex predators who move at speed both on land and sea, and an attack by one is not something many creatures can survive. And unlike the other animals on our list, polar bears will hunt and attack humans without provocation.
There have been several recent incidents of polar bears attacking humans in Svalbard, and it is common to see residents there carrying guns for protection. Visitors to the area are warned to take all safety precautions seriously and never head into polar bear territory without a knowledgeable guide.
Hunted almost to extinction during the 19th century, brown bears are now, unsurprisingly, a rarity in Norway. However, a small native population can be found living along the northern borders with Sweden, Finland, and Russia, three countries with much larger bear populations.
However, it’s not just their low numbers that cause such rare sightings. The Scandinavian brown bear is shy and wary of humans. They also have excellent hearing and a heightened sense of smell which allows them to detect the approach of any possible threat. As a result, they will usually make their escape long before a human gets close. In the rare event that someone comes upon a brown bear by accident, that is when there is a risk of attack. They do not like to be surprised and will perceive it as a threat.
Therefore, you’re advised to make plenty of noise when exploring known brown bear territory. If you do come across a bear, stop immediately and back away the way you came. Never run. It’s also wise to avoid brown bear territories during late spring and early summer when bears wake up from hibernation and enter their mating season.
Although these creatures look like little bears, they are actually the largest species of the weasel family. They are known for their aggressive nature and incredible strength and they can attack and kill predators much larger than themselves. The Norwegian wolverine reaches an average weight between 25-30 kg yet has been seen attacking and killing reindeer, animals that can easily outweigh them by over 100kg.
But despite their ferocity, wolverines are scavengers by nature and will feed primarily on carcasses left by larger animals or by stealing kills from less aggressive mammals. They supplement this carrion diet with berries, bird eggs, and by killing small mammals, but tend to save their heavyweight hunting skills for times of food scarcity and starvation.
They are most often found in the mountainous region of central Norway and along the border with Sweden. The Øvre Dividal National Park holds the highest concentration of wolverines and the greatest chance of seeing them. Although there are no recorded incidents of wolverines attacking humans, visitors would be wise to keep their distance because these fierce creatures could definitely inflict some damage!
Norway is one of the few places in the world where you can see Muskox in the wild. They are a famous sight in Dovrefjell National Park, where visitors hope to glimpse these hairy, shaggy beasts. Strangely, visitors are rarely put off by their fearsome appearance or by their powerful smell. Males give off the strong odor, or musk, for which they are named, during mating season. It is effective at attracting females but can be overpowering to everyone else in the vicinity!
This smell, coupled with their large curved horns, should encourage people to keep their distance, but muskox appear docile, and tourists often make the mistake of thinking them harmless, cowlike creatures. As a result, there are frequent incidents of people getting too close – usually while trying to take selfies – causing the muskoxen to become defensive and charge down the perceived threat.
One of the more surprising dangerous animals in Norway, Muskox can weigh over 400kg and run at 60km per hour. They are wild animals and will turn on humans if they feel threatened if you get too close, if it’s mating season or if they are protecting their young. So, as with all animals in the wild, please treat them with respect, take photos from a distance, and don’t approach any closer than 200m.
The European Moose or Elk poses several dangers to people in Norway, the most common one being on the roads. Moose, along with deer and reindeer, tend to dart out in front of cars causing many accidents every year. While hitting a deer with your vehicle is upsetting, can cause injury to the animal, and damage your car, hitting a moose can be a much more serious thing. Because of their size, which can be over 2m tall and 600kg, they often fall through the vehicle’s windscreen, crushing the car and causing injury and even death to the people inside.
However, it’s not just on roads that these creatures are dangerous. Moose attack a surprising number of people a year, more than bear and wolf attacks combined. And although they don’t have fangs or claws, they attack by kicking and trampling with their front hooves, which can cause severe pain and injury.
The European moose is less aggressive than its North American relative. However, it will still attack in certain circumstances, if provoked or feeling threatened, during mating season or if protecting their calves. So it’s best always to keep your distance and back away swiftly if the moose flattens its ears or if bristles rise on the back of its neck.
The grey wolf is one of the most controversial animals in Norway. There are estimated to be less than 100 wolves in the country, with some living there full time and some wandering back and forth over the Swedish border. This low number has led to the wolf’s listing as a critically endangered species in Norway, yet despite this hunting them is still allowed.
Conservation groups are currently fighting for the wolf’s protection and to create more safe zones in which wolves cannot be hunted or killed. Some citizens are concerned about creating such nature preserves, while some farmers say that the remaining wolves should be culled for the protection of livestock. There are heated opinions on both sides, and the issue is still being debated in Norway’s supreme courts in 2021.
The Eurasian lynx feeds primarily on birds and medium-sized mammals such as marmots, foxes, and grouse. But in Norway, the lynx is known as a fierce hunter that can kill reindeer and even juvenile moose.
Although the lynx could undoubtedly use those efficient hunting skills on human prey, there are no recorded incidents of lynx ever attacking people. They are incredibly stealthy creatures with heightened senses that allow them to spot predators from far away, and hide or make their escape at the first sign of someone approaching. They do this so effectively that most people will never be lucky enough to see a lynx in the wild.
Your best chance of finding one in Norway is in the Reisa National Park, which has the highest population number within its rugged, forested terrain. If you do manage to spot one, you’ll know it for its beautiful tawny fur covered with darker spots and its signature dark tufted ears and tail.
The only dangerous snake in Norway is the Common European Adder or Viper. It is the most widespread snake in Europe and the only snake capable of living north of the Arctic Circle. Hardy and adaptable, it moves through a range of habitats throughout the year, searching for areas to sunbathe, hunt for food or hibernate. The snake can be found in various locations, including rocky, scrubby, grassy, and sandy regions, and they have been seen all over Norway.
They are venomous, and a bite can cause intense pain and swelling of the bitten area. But the symptoms are rarely severe or fatal unless the person bitten is a child, elderly, or in poor health, in which case they should find medical help quickly.
These snakes are not aggressive and only bite when threatened. Unfortunately, what often happens is that unsuspecting walkers stand on snakes who are basking in the sun. This is why incidences of adder encounters tend to rise in the hot summer months.
There are around thirteen species of ticks living in Norway, and while they might not have the claws, fangs, or fearsome reputations of some of the other animals on our list, they are still one of the most dangerous.
The parasitic creatures attach themselves to humans and animals by biting onto the skin and holding on for several days while they suck blood from their victims. Once they are full, they release their hold and fall off the host. This bite is not painful, and some people never even notice it’s happened. But the danger comes from the diseases that ticks carry and can pass onto humans, causing serious illness. The ticks in Norway carry a variety of diseases including, Lyme Disease and Tick-Borne Encephalitis, an infection that attacks the central nervous system.
Ticks are most prevalent in southern Norway, along the coastlines, and in areas where deer are common. One way to prevent tick bites and reduce the chances of infection is to wear long sleeves and trousers in known tick areas and remove any tick as soon as you notice it, preferably within 24 hours of it biting you.
What is the most dangerous animal in Norway?
Polar Bears are the most dangerous animals in Norway. Not because of the frequency of attacks but because they will actively hunt and attack humans without provocation.
Are there venomous snakes in Norway?
There is only one venomous snake in Norway, the Common European Adder or European Viper. It is the most widely distributed snake in Europe and has a venomous bite that is dangerous to humans.
Are there dangerous spiders in Norway?
There is only one species of Wolf Spider that has a venom harmful to humans. However, it is so rarely seen in Norway that it did not make it onto our dangerous animal’s list.