Svalbard Iskanten 2019 Foto Mats Grimsaeth IMG 2508

The Polar Bear

Facts about the polar bear, the King of the Arctic

Polar bear facts

Learn cool facts about the polar bear, the king of the Arctic, before your next trip to Svalbard.

  • Polar bears are the largest land predators on Earth. They can weigh up to 800 kilograms and measure over 3 meters in length.
  • They are characterized by their thick, insulating fur and characteristic white color, which helps them camouflage in their arctic habitat. Fun fact; the skin color of the polar bear is black!
  • Polar bears thrive in arctic areas, including Svalbard. They spend much of their lives near the ice edge where they hunt for seals.
  • The main part of the polar bear’s diet consists of seals, especially ringed and harp seals. They are excellent swimmers and normally hunt seals by waiting next to the seal holes in the ice, and attack when the seals emerge to breathe.
  • Polar bears have a low reproductive rate. The female is usually pregnant for 8-9 months before giving birth to one or two cubs in a snow cave during the winter. Young polar bears stay with their mother for about two and a half years before becoming independent.
  • Polar bears are a vulnerable species due to climate change and the loss of their natural habitat. Melting ice in arctic areas affects the polar bears’ access to food and resting places.
  • In Svalbard, it is important to respect guidelines for polar bear safety, as encounters with polar bears can be dangerous. Follow your guide and safety routines.
Svalbard Iskanten 2019 Foto Mats Grimsaeth IMG 2533
Hello there! Photo by Mats Grimsæth.

Polar bear safety

Polar bears are found throughout the archipelago and can be encountered anywhere throughout the year. The polar bear is one of the world’s largest predators and is dangerous to humans. When you move outside populated areas, it is required by law to carry suitable deterrents. In addition, you or someone in your group must have a firearm and you must be able to use both deterrents and weapons. 

On all of our tours we have a certified guide who handles polar bear safety in the group. If you are staying in Longyearbyen for a couple of days before or after the sailing adventure, we recommend booking activities with a local operator, or staying with someone who has access to polar bear protection.

The most important thing to bear in mind is to avoid getting into situations with polar bears that could become dangerous for yourself or the animal. The most rewarding polar bear experiences typically involve observing them in their undisturbed state, using binoculars from a respectful distance.

Seeking out, pursuing, or disturbing polar bears is strictly prohibited. Maintaining a considerable distance from polar bears is essential, even when encountered in the sea. These powerful creatures are adept swimmers, capable of reaching speeds exceeding 8 meters per second (over 30 km/h) in short bursts.

The King of the Arctic; the polar bear

Svalbard Nord Vest 2019 Foto Mats Grimseth DJI 0351

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Sailing around Svalbard, 2023. Photo by Jeremiah Psiropoulos.

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