Whenever you travel to someplace new, you will want to learn about potentially dangerous animals and wildlife where you are going, and this should also be the case when you plan on visiting Norway.
There are generally very few dangerous animals in Norway, but there are some that could potentially could some harm to you. However, learn what to expect from the wild animals and how to behave, and you will be very safe when travelling the Norwegian wilderness.
You are very unlikely to be attacked by any animal while visiting Norway, and most Norwegians hike in the forest or the mountains without a worry in the world.
I will be looking closer at all these potentially dangerous animals in Norway in this article, and giving some tips on what to expect and how to behave if you meet any of these animals.
As a Norwegian biologist, I feel qualified to give advice on Norwegian wildlife, and you will notice that I won’t sensationalize many of the animals as much as other websites do. Most animals in Norway are harmless as long as you don’t try to sneak up on them.
Many people are afraid of meeting brown bears in Norway, but these are nothing like the grizzly bears or black bears that you can find in the US. The brown bears of Norway are actually extremely shy and tend to stay far away from humans.
There are roughly 150 brown bears in Norway, and most are found close to the Swedish border. There have been a few bear attacks in the last few decades, but these are usually tied to hunters that manage to shoot the bear without killing it when they are on a bear hunt. This will cause the bear to defend itself, so don’t go around shooting brown bears if you don’t know what you are doing.
You should not be concerned about meeting bears when you are out in the forests in Norway. They are extremely rare, and will run away long before you are even close to them.
The only bear that might be a problem is a mother with a cub. She might do what we call a skinnangrep, which can be translated to a fake attack. If she has cubs nearby, she might pretend to attack you, but she will either run right past you or stop just in front of you. The goal is to let the cubs have some seconds extra to be able to climb up into a tree and get away from your (which they perceive as a threat). These attacks are extremely rare.
If you encounter a wild brown bear without cubs, the correct action is to shout or talk loudly to the bear to alert it that you are close. This will cause it to run away. Scientific studies on the bears in Norway have yet to hear of or see a bear encounter where the bear does not run away immediately unless it is protecting a cub.
If you encounter a bear with cubs, also back away, but be prepared that the mother might follow you. However, do not worry, because she will just make sure that you don’t get too close to the cubs. If you see a cub, head away from it.
There are just over 100 wolves in Norway, and while many people are afraid of them, they don’t really pose a threat to people. There are no records of wolves attacking humans in Norway in the last 100 years, so you can feel very safe around them.
The Norwegian wolves are only found in the south-eastern part of Norway, primarily in the woods east of Oslo along the border to Sweden. They will stay far away from humans, but you are advised to keep dogs on a leash if you ever travel in the woods where there are wolves close by. This is because the wolves can see the dogs as rivals and kill them.
You should not be afraid of wolves in Norway, even if you travel to an area where they are. If you are lucky enough to meet one, just gently walk away, and the wolf will run in the other direction.
Polar bears are then only real wildlife threat to humans in Norway, but we do not even have polar bears in mainland Norway. These are exclusively found on the island Svalbard (also known as Spitsbergen), located far north of the mainland.
If you ever visit Svalbard, polar bears should be a real concern. You are not legally allowed to go outside of the city border in Longyearbyen without being armed with a gun to protect yourself from polar bear attacks, and tourists should always be accompanied by a certified and armed guide.
Polar bears can attack and kill humans, and might even hunt humans for food. One person is killed by a polar bear on Svalbard ever 10 years on average, so these attacks does happen from time to time, but very rarely.
The big thing that separates polar bears from the other animals on the list is that polar bears are the only animal that actively hunt and attack humans. All the other animals on the list will only attack or cause harm if they feel that they need to defend themselves.
But if you ever visit mainland Norway, polar bears are not a thing at all.
There is a single herd of musk ox in Norway, and these are all located in the Dovre-area. Musk oxen are popular for wildlife tourists who want to see these animals for themselves, but since they are only found in this single area, most people won’t have to worry about them at all.
You will need to take some precautions if you do decide to visit Dovre. Musk oxen can be pretty aggressive, and they will attack if you get too close to them. The general rule is to stay 200 meters away from them, which means that you should look at them trough a binocular or camera lens.
There are usually some tourists that gets attacked by musk oxen each summer, and in most cases the reason is because they got too close. So stay far away and enjoy the sight!
The musk oxen will not really care about you until you get too close, so you can stand and watch them for some time while they do their thing. If you get closer, they will likely start to feel anxious, and at this point you should be very careful about getting closer. They will defend themselves if they feel threatened.
Also read: How to go on a musk ox safari.
Moose (Eurasian elk)
There are lots of moose in most parts on Norway, and these large herbivores can actually be dangerous for humans. They do not use their antlers to protect themselves, but they will kick if they feel threatened.
Most moose attacks come from females that are protecting a calf. If the female feel threatened, she might attack you to let the calf run away. The attack is usually not actually dangerous, but it can be very scary. Her objective is to give the calf time to run away while you are busy with the mother.
If you ever meet a moose with a calf, stay at a long range and enjoy the view. Don’t try to get close, and back away if they move towards you.
Moose are very common in Norway, and you might be lucky and see a wild one with your own eyes while visiting. The best chance of seeing one is from a car or bus, because they often tend to go to fields to eat, and are very easy to spot when they are standing on a field, especially at winter when there is snow cover.
More people are hurt by cows than either wolves, bears or polar bears in Norway, which might come as a surprise. There are no wild cows in Norway, but many farmers let their cows out into the wild to graze during the summer. This means that a lot of hikers and tourists will meet cows in the wild when they are in the forest or mountains.
Cows are usually not very dangerous, but just like the moose, mothers with calves can be pretty aggressive. So stay clear of any mother-calf-combo you come across.
If you want to stay on the safe side, don’t approach the cows at all, and let them pass or walk a few meters away from them. They won’t mind you walking past them, but might not like it if you try to touch or pet them.
Attacks from cows are usually not dangerous, but they can kick hard and push you over easily. And while some people might think it is funny to include cows on the list, be aware that these are at the top 3 of the list of the animals that causes the most injuries to humans in Norway. The other two are dogs and bees.
European adder is the only venomous snake we have in Norway, and while it is considered venomous, most people handle the venom just fine without any medical help. If you get bitten, there is about 70 % chance of the bite inflicting venom. This will cause the area to swell, and you are advised to go to the nearest hospital to get examined and potentially get antivenom.
Deaths from European adders are very rare in Norway, but it can happen. However, if you get to a hospital, the risk of dying is very low. Symptoms of venom from the European adder is swelling, nausea, pain in the area close to the bite, dizziness, stomach pains or palpitations (racing heart).
European adders can be seen by their crossed pattern on their back. The body itself is grey or brown, while the pattern in usually very dark or black. There are also a few European adders that are completely black, due to a genetic pigmentation problem.
You will usually encounter European adders on warm, sunny days close to the sea. They enjoy laying on rocks to sunbathe, but they can also be found in the forest. A bite from an European adder is very rare, and most people have never been bitten themselves or have even heard of a person who has been bitten. I was personally bitten by one when I was a young child, but luckily I didn’t get very sick.
Ticks are very common in the southern part of Norway, and can be considered dangerous since they can carry bacteria or viruses that can cause diseases in humans. Ticks are small insect-like animals that wait patiently for a host to appear before they jump to this host. Once there, they dig into the skin to start sucking blood from the host.
If you go hiking in the forest when ticks are active, you can expect to get several of them on your body. They will attach to your skin after a few hours, so you should pick them before this.
The best way to avoid problems with ticks is to always do a check after a hike in the forest. They are usually very easy to spot since they are either red or black, and they will progressively get easier to spot after they get bigger since they get filled with blood.
The general rule of thumb is to always pick all ticks before they have been on your body for 24 hours. The risk of getting infected by a disease in the first 24 hours is considered very low.
We haven’t had boars in Norway for more than a few years, but they have migrated from Sweden and seem to grow in numbers. While there haven’t been records of any attacks or injuries from boars in Norway thus far, information from other countries suggest that these can be pretty dangerous if you get too close to them.
If you encounter a wild boar, do not approach it. Stay far away from it.
The boars in Norway are all found close to the Swedish border in the area around the city Halden, so you won’t need to worry about them anywhere else (just yet). They are likely to spread to other parts of Norway in the coming years, but for now their range is very limited.
Dangerous marine and freshwater animals in Norway
There are some fish and jellyfish that can be considered dangerous here in Norway, but most Norwegians don’t even really know a lot about these. The most common poisonous fish in Norway is called greater weever (Trachinus draco), or fjesing in norwegian. This can cause some pain if you step on any of its dorsal fins, but it is not really dangerous.
The pike can also cause some damage. It is actually very aggressive, and there are some examples of pikes that have bitten humans in their toes or legs when they have been swimming. A little painful, but not dangerous.
Norwegian children typically also learn to stay away from the jellyfish called lion’s mane jellyfish. This animal is not really dangerous, but it can be very painful to get stung by it, so just stay away if you see one.
Other than that, most Norwegians just go swimming on either the sea or lakes without much worry about the animals that can be there. Attacks from large fish are considered extremely rare.
Sharks are actually pretty common in Norway, but there have not been a single record of a shark attack in Norwegian waters. They usually shy away from humans, and do not see us as a prey. The same can be said for orcas.
Norwegian animals that are in no way dangerous to humans
This part of the article includes animals that are not dangerous at all, but for some reason seem to get a spot on other websites that are writing about dangerous animals in Norway. However, all the animals below are completely harmless to humans, and you should not be scared if you meet one.
Wolverines are extremely rare, and can be found high up in the mountains in certain parts of Norway. These small animals have never been knows to attack or even get close to humans. In fact, they are so shy that it is considered to be very rare to even see one even if you spend a lot of time looking for them. Most wolverine sightings are from very far away, using binoculars, and you won’t ever get to be close to a wild one.
Eurasian lynx are a small predator which is found in most parts of Norway. Many people are under the impression that the lynx could potentially be dangerous, but there are no records of a lynx ever attacking a human. So you should not be scared of them at all, because you are 1) extremely unlikely to ever see one, and 2) they will just run away from you if they see you. Lynx are typically found close to human settlements (because this is where their prey the roe deer is), but you probably won’t ever see one.
Reindeer are a strict herbivore that won’t cause any harm to humans. Wild reindeer live in huge herds that will run away if you get too close to them. Since they are always on the lookout for potential threats, getting close to a herd is very difficult.
Spiders can be venomous, but the Norwegian spiders are not venomous enough to be considered dangerous. While a few species can cause some swelling if you get bitten, no one can cause any real harm. And how often do you even get bit by a spider anyway?
You don’t really need to worry about wildlife or dangerous animals in Norway if you show the animals some respect
As long as you respect all the wild animals you encounter by giving them space, there is not really a need to worry about any wild encounter in Norway. Even the European adder will try to get away from you before resorting to biting, so just take it slow and give the animal some space if you meet one.
Walking in the forest or going on hikes in the mountains is considered very safe in regards to animals. You are much more likely to get injuries from other sources then from an encounter with a wild animal, so rather focus your energy on staying safe from hiking injuries instead.