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ARE THERE POLAR BEARS IN ICELAND?

People have over the years asked if there are polar bears in Iceland, and the truest answer to that question is “NO” there are no polar bears in Iceland.
Polar bears are identified as the only bear species classified as marine mammals, as they spend most of their lives on the sea, and are largely seen inhabiting at the Arctic circle, sourcing their food in the Arctic Ocean and dwelling by it.

Iceland is an island located between North America and mainland Europe. Reykjavik tours are world famous, so you wil experience bears there. It is a European country, and it lies below the Arctic Circle between latitude 64 and 66 degrees north which puts a distance of about 1,904km between Iceland and the polar bears in the Arctic ocean. Polar bears aren’t known natives of Iceland like the Arctic fox, mice, rats, rabbits, minks, and reindeer, but they’ve been known to occasionally drift to Iceland on ice floes or icebergs.

ARE THERE POLAR BEARS IN ICELAND - Polar Bear Underwater

Polar bears are known to rely on the sea ice to search for their food, but long melting seasons as a result of climate change make sea ice forming come late in some seasons, causing the ice to break up earlier in the year. The polar bear species is one of the first few species to be identified to become threatened by anthropogenic climate change. Over the years, polar bears have had a few hundred recorded sightings in Iceland as they’ve been identified to sometimes drift with ice floes or icebergs from Greenland into Iceland.

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Reports indicate that two polar bears were sighted, shot and killed in the northwest of Iceland in 2008, one at the Thverárfjall Mountain, and the other at Hraun at Skagi. These incidents made Iceland’s environmental minister set up a committee to make proposals on how to deal with polar bears that drift into Iceland in the future, even though the such event was not recorded twenty years before.

ARE THERE POLAR BEARS IN ICELAND - Polar Bear Posing

Even though polar bears are protected under Icelandic legislation as they an endangered species, but in 2010 a polar bear was spotted in Thistilfjordur, northeast Iceland and also shot down by the police with reasons explained to be concerned with human safety, high costs of capturing the bear alive and returning it home, and the abundance of polar bears in eastern Greenland. Do you know what is more interesting then seeing polar bears, it is Private Volcano Eruption hike 

Polar bears species have been predicted to decline by thirty-percent by 2050, yet in July 2016, a female polar bear was shot dead in northern Iceland. The young bear was spotted within 500meters to an inhabited farm and was shot dead by a marksman who explained that he was in no doubt about killing the bear, as it was close to a farm where children had been playing. These frequent arrivals have raised questions of the habitation of polar bears in Iceland and what is happening in the polar ice caps in the northern hemisphere that is causing these bears to drift off their habitat.

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Climate change remains the greatest threat to the survival of the polar bear’s species. But it is not the only threat aiding its extinction, as oil and gas industries have massively moved to the arctic which in turn is causing potential risks of habitat destruction of polar bears. Studies have revealed that when polar bears come in contact with oil spills it tends to reduce the insulating effects of it fur, exposing them to toxic chemicals and poisoning them when ingested through their prey.
Climate change which causes the melting of ice has facilitated to the increase of human-polar bear contact and conflict through these past years, as these bears go in search of food when hungry in the summer and tend to get drifted away on icebergs. Climate change has made polar bears occasional visitor to Iceland, even as this species is not a known native of Iceland, the presence of large drift ice has become a huge contributor to these visits.

Polar Bears and Glaciers

How many polar bears are in Iceland

Increasing numbers of polar bears have been spotted reaching northern Iceland, as aforementioned through the last quarter of the 20th century, from their habitat identified as east Greenland. This species is totally dependent on ice for long-term supply of their food and would only remain in Iceland if stranded, ordinarily; they won’t vacate their habitat.

There should, therefore, be adequate provision of response plans in Iceland for future spotting of polar bears. Some of this plan should include the capturing of the bear and airlifting or shipping back to Greenland, another is the capturing and transportation of the polar bear to a secure holding in Akureyri before being later transferred to a zoo. The polar bear can also be captured, transported to a holding facility in Akureyri and shipped or airlifted back to its home in Greenland. The killing of the polar bear should only serve as a last result if and when the bear serves as a threat to human lives or livestock.

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The killing of four polar bears in Iceland between 2008 and 2016 gathered much domestic and international attention. The Icelandic government and its people should discover the best approach against the killing of this unique species, and develop an organized approach to bear response. Discussing and developing an effective response approach to polar bears sighting will promote the conservation of this specie, which is on the list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of threatened species.

Polar bears have become regular visitors of Iceland, due to climate change but no polar bear is inhabiting in Iceland. These frequent visits should instead generate more concerns on the living condition of this specie in the northern hemisphere and the consequences surrounding the polar ice cap in their habitat. Polar bears are wild animals on the quest of food, it is important to care for this specie by staying away from them and doing everything possible to keep them safe in their habitat.

How do polar bears travel to Iceland?

If you’ve followed the stories of polar bears in Iceland, you’ll know that Icelandic polar bears typically come in April. This is not a coincidence considering how ice starts to melt in springtime and that icebergs drift from the coast of Greenland and float in Iceland’s direction.

Of course, polar bears can swim to Iceland when they want to, but they’ll normally just prefer to ride on one of the drifting icebergs from Greenland to Iceland, as the warm weather breaks some of the ice apart. However, even with the icebergs, polar bears can still swim the whole day, as the shortest distance between Iceland and Greenland is about 300 km. 

Fortunately, polar bears are very good swimmers and are not scared of swimming long distances. They can cover up to 100 kilometres within 11 hours and can go a full week without resting. Studies show that the distances that polar bears need to cover swimming is getting longer each year due to global warming, especially with polar bears needing to travel even farther for food.

So it’s easy to see that it’s not a difficult task for polar bears to swim from Greenland to Iceland. And since they sometimes take breaks in the northernmost tip of Iceland, they can sometimes take a second run to swim further along the coastline. 

A few decades ago, polar bears were very unusual in Iceland, but the number of appearances has grown in recent years.

What to do if you see a polar bear in Iceland? 

As you’ve read, Iceland is one of the countries with occasional polar bear appearances. Therefore, it’s important to know what to do if you suddenly come face to face with a polar bear during one of your vacations. The first thing to do is to ensure you’re calm in the situation. Panic doesn’t solve any issue, nor does fear. It makes sense to be as calm as you can while evaluating the situation to know the possible risks and what’s best at the moment, all the while making yourself look as big as possible. Don’t attempt to run away or make sudden movements, as this can cause the polar bear to attack you. 

Like any other kind of bear, polar bears have a natural fear of humans, and their most natural reaction to seeing humans is to maintain their distance. You must also maintain your distance to avoid making the polar bear comfortable around people. Avoid approaching a polar bear. 

If you notice a polar bear approaching you, shout very loudly and continue jumping up and down to make yourself look very big. Form groups with other people as groups naturally look like a threat to animals compared to single individuals.

Conclusion

There you have it, a detailed answer to the question, “are there polar bears in Iceland?” Polar bears are among the most beautiful kinds of bears, and they are pleasing to the eyes. However, they are also dangerous, so it’s important to be prepared for them before coming across them. The snowy situation in Iceland will always cause you to wonder whether there are polar bears in Iceland. I’ve answered this question extensively in this article and provided tips on what you should do when you come across a polar bear. Enjoy your vacation.

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