The Scandinavian country of Norway is a scenic destination well known for its dramatic landscape and surreal fjords. When visiting Norway, be sure to escape the cities and experience the natural side of this incredible destination. There is a rich wildlife here, and these Norwegian animals are just some of what can be seen while exploring the woods, forests and fjords in the country.
Named for their long and often curled whiskers, bearded seals are largest of the seal species found in Northern Europe. Bearded seals can be hard to spot because unlike many other species, they don’t tend to stay in the same spot all the time. Instead, they stick close to drifting pack ice. To see bearded seals, travelers should spend time along the coastal areas of fjords where floating ice can be seen. As is often the case for wildlife spotting, Northern Norway is the best place to begin the search. Svalbord’s fjords are a smart place to look for bearded seals, as is Andenes in the far north of Norway’s mainland.
Norway is a mecca for avid birdwatchers, and one of the most rare and beautiful birds to be found in the country is the white-tailed eagle. Although this bird came close to suffering extinction in the 19th and 20th centuries, populations are on the rise. The largest numbers of the white-tailed eagle can be found in Norway, and in particular in the Gjesværstappan Islands. While white-tailed eagles are considered resident birds, meaning they don’t necessarily migrate in the winter, they are still most easily spotted during the summer months.
Although a lot of the wildlife in Norway is found in the northern part of the country, or even in the islands off the coast, reindeer can be found a little more conveniently for travelers. Many of the national parks in the heart of Norway, including Rondane National Park and Hardangervidda National Park, are home to wild roaming reindeer. Heading further north in Norway, reindeer can start to look different, thanks to a shorter, whiter variety of reindeer that may have origins in Russia or Canada.
The medium-sized cat known as the Eurasian lynx is a beautiful animal that is identified by its bobbed tail, which always has a black tip, as well as by its heavily spotted fur. The Eurasian lynx can be found across Europe and in Asia, but these animals are still rare and incredibly difficult to spot. This is, in part, because they are very secretive and quiet in their natural habitats. In Norway, there are just under 500 Eurasian lynx to be found, and most are located within the northern part of the country in places like Reisa National Park and Øvre Dividal National Park.
Travelers who plan on birdwatching while in Norway won’t want to miss the chance to spot Atlantic puffins. These delightful birds have black and white bodies along with colorful orange beaks and a distinctly clown-like appearance. There are several coastal destinations where the Atlantic puffin can be seen throughout the year, but the best spot will be in the small village of Bleik in Vesterålen. For about 10 weeks each year, from the start of June to the middle of August, Atlantic puffins flock to this area for breeding, and there are more than 300,000 puffins there during the season.
In Northern Norway, the town of Vesterålen is a popular spot for travelers from around the world to set off on wildlife watching tours. In particular, the island group called Vesterålen is a hub for whale watching adventures. Because of the abundance of plankton near the continental shelf, this spot is a popular destination for humpback whales between the months of May and September. These tours may also afford passengers the chance to see orca whales, pilot whales and sperm whales in the same environment.
One of the most incredible animals in Norway to see is the arctic fox, a unique species that is entirely white throughout the winter in order to blend in with its snow-covered surroundings. There are two options for visitors who want a near-guarantee of spotting the arctic fox in the wild. The first is to visit the Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park, where the foxes breed in the summer. The second option is to head closer to the Swedish border and the Borgefjell National Park, where the arctic fox is more commonly spotted during the snowy winter months.
The Eurasian elk is a solitary animal that rarely travels in packs, making it an elusive mammal to spot in the wild. For those who would like to see a Eurasian elk in their natural habitat, the best place to start the search is in Buksnesfjord within the Vesterålen archipelago. Although the elk can be spotted naturally, guided tours take participants to elk-rich areas and use a spotlight to highlight them just after sunset, when the animals are particularly active. Keep in mind that the Eurasian elk is known in North America as a moose, but in Norwegian it is called an elk.
The large Atlantic walrus is an exceptional animal that can weigh up to 4,000 pounds. They are easily identified both because of their size and because of their tusks, which are actually elongated canine teeth, and can be found on both male and female walruses. Those who want to spot walruses will want to head to Svalbard, a group of islands just north of Norway. From the city of Longyearbyen, there are frequent tours where passengers can travel by boat to neighboring fjords to spot the elusive walrus in all its enormous glory.
Seeing polar bears in the wild is often a bucket list itinerary for nature lovers, and Norway offers one of the best chances to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitats. Again, the secluded and pristine islands of Svalbard are often the ideal place to spot polar bears. Believe it or not, Svalbard is actually home to slightly more polar bears than people! To see polar bears safely, guided expeditions are recommended. In the summer, polar bears are often spotted by boat along the coast, and in the winter they’re commonly spotted on snowmobile trips.