One would say, the answer to that question is very simple- no, there aren’t any polar bears in Iceland. Notwithstanding, few claim that polar bears have been indeed seen in our lovely land. Where is the truth then? Might be that Scotland has its Nessi, Himalaya has its Yeti and Iceland has… polar bears? Let’s have a closer look at this case and get this misery solved.
Starting from the beginning. Famous Landnamabok, a book on settlement, written around 1280, gives the story of the Viking Ingimund settled in Vatnsdal. Ingimund found polar bears in Iceland, specifically in Hunavatn- North Iceland with two cubs. He then sold one to King Harald when he sailed to Norway. It does not state though how the bear was caught or where he came from.
Sea ice is the basis of the existence of polar bears. Only there they are successful hunters, are able to accumulate fat for the winter and feed the small ones. They practically starve on the mainland. The disappearance of ice in the Arctic must then result in a population decline. Therefore, polar bears already are migrating to cooler regions, becoming “climate refugees”.
For many hundreds of years, long before the island was settled, polar bears appeared on ice crashes, swimming from Greenland and feeding on seals and fish. After settling, such visits to the Icelanders were quite dangerous, although they were great events. When the climate cooled it was easier for the bears to get to Iceland as the ice fields were far to the south.
Polar bears in Iceland were just frecuent visitors. Back in 1984, fishermen saw 6 animals drifting on ice crashes. Around 1975, a tourist came to the island of Grimsey. Also in 1978 and 1983 they were seen again and traces of bears’ paws were seen on the snow.
The last one was seen in 2016. Before that, two polar bears in Iceland were seen in 2008 in Hvalnes. The sea currents in that area are very strong so it is quite difficult to state when exactly those animals reached the shore. Due to the climate changes and the increasing melting ice sheets, Iceland may expect also an increment of the number of incoming animals.
In February 2015, the police from the capital district received a report on a polar bear that was noticed in the district of Vesturbaer in Reykjavik. When they arrived to the spot, there was indeed a huge polar… mascot. It was “borrowed” from one of the shop in the center. The police though have taken a good care of him and returned him to his owners.
Find Out The Enigma of Polar Bears in Iceland
These fluffy bears are definitely amazing animals and seeing one would be the icing on the cake for your Icelandic trip. If you would like to see one, take a picture of it or even give him a hug, I do recommend you to take a walk into the downtown Reykjavik to the “Polar Bear Gifts” souvenir shop and enjoy its company for a while!
Unfortunately, when polar bears already arrive in Iceland, they are quite famished. As one of the few animals that still sometimes hunt people, it poses a serious threat to the inhabitants of this region. That is why they are killed as soon as they are found in the island. The cost of capture, feeding them ant taking care to take them back home would be around 75 thousand euros.