From the lowlands to the arctic mountains, Norway’s vast wilderness is home to some of the world’s most skilled and ferocious predators.
But don’t let that scare you away from a visit – encounters with these animals are rare, even if you’re hiking in the wilderness. I’ve spent plenty of time hiking in the mountains around my family’s cottage and have only ever come across a couple of red foxes.
So, who are the top predators that call Norway’s wilderness home? Join us as we take a closer look at these specialized and skilled animals, and discover what makes them such formidable forces in the wild.
While you won’t find any polar bears on mainland Norway, they can be found on the territory of Svalbard and the surrounding Barents sea ice.
The polar bear is the world’s largest land-living predator on earth. They can reach lengths of up to 180-260 cm, a height of 170 cm, and weigh anywhere between 300-600 kilos.
They are native to the northern arctic hemisphere. Here, seals serve as their primary source of food, which they hunt vigorously out on the vast sea ice.
In addition to its thick, white coat, the polar bear is adapted to live on the sea ice in many ways, including having papules on its paws that prevent it from sliding on the slippery ice.
While there are no exact numbers, the Barents sea population is thought to consist of less than 1000 reproductive individuals.
Despite being protected, the rapid melting of the arctic sea ice poses a significant threat to this powerful predator. As a consequence, they are considered an endangered species in Norway.
The lynx is a majestic and elusive predator that calls the forests of Norway home. These cats are the only native cat species in the country and are found throughout the hilly northern regions. Due to their shy and elusive nature, they are rarely spotted out in the open.
The lynx is a medium-sized predator with a sleek and powerful build. With their striking coat of tawny fur, long tufted ears, and distinctive black spots, lynx are a sight to behold – if you’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one. Due to their shy and elusive nature, they are rarely spotted out in the open.
They are nocturnal hunters who are adapted to live in the forest, with strong hind legs and padded paws that allow them to move stealthily through the underbrush. Their diet consists mainly of small mammals such as rabbits and hares, but they are also known to prey on larger animals such as deer when the opportunity arises.
Although their population numbers have fluctuated over the years, the lynx is considered a species of the least concern in Norway due to conservation efforts. However, they continue to face threats from habitat loss and human encroachment.
So next time you’re out exploring the rough wooded terrain of Norway, keep an eye out for these mysterious and beautiful predators.
The white-tailed eagle is the largest bird of prey in Norway. As the name implies, it has distinctive white tail feathers on an otherwise brown feather coat. With a sharp yellow beak and a wingspan that can reach over 2 meters, the white-tailed eagle is a formidable predator that strikes from the skies.
Also known as the sea eagle, they are skilled hunters that can be found along the entire Norwegian coastline. Here they patrol the coastline in search of food. Once they spot a fish on the surface of the water, they dive down and snatch them straight out of the water. In addition to fish, they also feed on a variety of prey including other birds, small mammals, and crustaceans.
In addition to their powerful hunting abilities, white-tailed eagles are also known for their intelligence and adaptability. This is highlighted by the fact that they thrive in vastly different habitats from the far east, through the middle east to the arctic north.
After years of declining numbers due to habitat loss and human encroachment, they became a protected species in Norway in the late 60s. This, together with other conservation efforts has helped the white-tailed eagle has made a successful comeback.
One of the best ways to experience these powerful predators is on a coastal eagle safari where you are able to see them up close and in action. I recommend booking one in Lofoten, where you get to see them among one of the most spectacular landscapes Norway has to offer.
Roaming the wild and rugged landscapes of Norway is one of nature’s grandest beasts: the brown bear. A true giant among mammals, these majestic creatures can weigh up to an astounding 300kg.
One of the most remarkable features of the brown bear is its sense of smell, which is 100,000 times more powerful than a human’s. This is how they hunt their natural prey – such as mice, lemmings, bird eggs, and various berries and sweet fruits.
Despite their imposing presence, the brown bear population in Norway has had a tumultuous history. During the 19th century, overhunting brought the brown bear to the brink of extinction. But thanks to conservation efforts, the population has stabilized in recent years. Though still relatively rare, with an estimated 160 individuals living in remote regions along the borders of Sweden, Finland, and Russia.
Despite their large size and fearsome reputation, brown bears are generally non-aggressive creatures that prefer to keep to themselves. Attacks on humans are rare, but they do happen when a bear’s territory is encroached upon.
While your chances of encountering them out in the wilderness are slim, you can get the full brown bear experience in the bear park (bjørneparken), a wildlife zoo in Flå, located about 2 hours northwest of Oslo.
When you think of the fierce and formidable wolverine, you might be forgiven for imagining Hugh Jackman’s portrayal in the X-Men movies. But the reality is just as intriguing, if somewhat smaller in scale.
The real wolverine is a member of the weasel family that can be found in the Norwegian wilderness. They are characterized by their distinctive brown and cream coloration. Despite their compact size, with males weighing in at less than 20kg, they are no less formidable.
Wolverines are known to be opportunistic scavengers, with a varied diet that includes everything from moose carcasses, reindeer, and sheep to ground squirrels, hares, and rodents. While monthly solitary, males typically form bonds with 2-3 females which he visits occasionally.
The wolverine has a unique reproduction process where mating occurs in summer but implantation is delayed until winter, allowing females to control the timing of birth based on food availability. In good years, litters of 2-3 pups are born in spring.
Wolverines were once a common sight in Norway, particularly in the southern mountains and along the border with Sweden. Unfortunately, overhunting led them to the brink of extinction in the 1970s. However, conservation efforts have seen a resurgence in the population, with estimates now putting the total number of individuals at around 350.
The Wolverine is a fascinating creature, it’s a symbol of strength and resilience. Its comeback after almost being hunted to extinction is a testament to the power of conservation efforts and the importance of protecting Norwegian wildlife.
The wolf holds a special place in Norway’s history, dating back to Norse mythology where it is said that a monstrous wolf named Fenrir, the son of Loki, was destined to kill Odin in the final battle of Ragnarok.
Although wolves have made their home in most of Norway for thousands of years, today most of the population can be found in the forested regions bordering Sweden in the southeast. But it’s important to note that these are not descendants of the original population that once roamed the land, but new settlers mostly from Russia.
Norway shares its wolf population with neighboring Sweden and together, they aim to keep the population within a specific limit of 4-6 breeding pairs. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a harsh culling policy, where more than 60% of the population is killed to maintain this population limit. This has resulted in the wolf being critically endangered in Norway, a situation that is constantly debated and has become a political cause for some parties.
One of the main reasons for this strict control is to prevent the loss of sheep for farmers, however, moose are the most important prey of the Norwegian wolves and the majority of sheep loss occurs due to natural or unrelated causes, with very few falling prey to wolves.
Hopefully, future policy will ensure that the wolf is able to live and thrive in Norway.
The Stoat is a small but fierce animal related to the weasel and otter. They have a chocolate brown fur coat, with a white underbelly and a characteristic black tip on their tail. In winter they have an all-white winter coat but keep their characteristic black tail tip.
Weighing up to 450g and living for around 5 years, these little critters are both ferocious and sneaky. Their slender, low-slung bodies make them perfect for hunting their natural prey which is primarily small rodents, but they also feed on worms, birds, frogs, insects, and berries.
No matter where you are in the country, you can find a Stoat making its home. They are adaptable and curious creatures and can be found in a variety of habitats. Once established, they become territorial and fiercely defend their home against intruders.
While previously being hunted for their fur, their population is of least concern in Norway today and they’re not heavily impacted by human activity. Despite having natural predators like foxes, eagles, and owls, their biggest challenge comes from the availability of their primary food source, small rodents, which can fluctuate with the seasons.
While they tend to be the most active during the night, they can also be active during the day. With their quick and agile movements, they are fascinating to watch in their natural habitat should you be lucky enough to spot one on a hike or walk.
Red fox and arctic fox
Meet the red fox, Norway’s most common predator with a population of around 200,000. This adaptable animal can be found in nearly every habitat, even in urban areas.
Though mostly solitary, red foxes may form long-term partnerships with a mate. These foxes are opportunistic eaters, primarily feasting on rodents but also known to prey on livestock such as chickens and lambs in urban areas.
They usually have litters of 4-6 pups, and their ability to adapt has ensured they are not considered endangered in Norway.
I have been lucky enough to spot red foxes on several occasions, even in Oslo, as I happened to cross paths with one on the sidewalk on my way to work in the early morning. Oddly enough, he barely acknowledged my presence and showed no signs of being on guard or scared.
On the other hand, the Arctic Fox is an endangered species in Norway, with a population of only 300 individuals. One reason is their dependency on the population of lemmings, which is their primary source of food, which is known to fluctuate greatly from year to year.
With pups’ diet consisting of up to 80-90% lemmings, the low population of lemmings directly affects the reproduction of Arctic Foxes, resulting in fewer pups born in those years.
To help bolster the population of Arctic Foxes, wildlife authorities have implemented conservation efforts such as food depots and released a total of 25 kits in 2022. Hopefully, these measures can help bolster and increase the population to ensure their survival in Norway.
Polar bear, the king of the arctic – Visit Svalbard
Lynx population increasing – Norway Today