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Hike: the big-5; wildlife and animals you might (not want to) come across in Norway

Depending on where you hail from, the flora and fauna (or wildlife) in Norway can appear rather exotic, and indeed they are. Here, you won't find the famed Big Five, but instead, you'll encounter a myriad of creatures that are unique to the Arctic region and seldom seen elsewhere in the world. In this article, I shall be delighted to enlighten you about them. Furthermore, I shall provide you with some valuable tips to enhance your chances of spotting these creatures and offer guidance on how to conduct yourself when encountering them. I naming a few of my favourites.


A moose in a field in Norway

The moose, often referred to as the 'king of the forest' in colloquial terms, symbolizes the northern realms of the world. Both Norway and Sweden vie for the moose as their emblem. Countless Swedish Volvos proudly display a sticker reminiscent of the Ferrari logo - a yellow background with a black moose. Likewise, the moose frequently appears in Norwegian symbolism, logos, tourist shops, and popular culture. Surprisingly, though, in daily life, one seldom glimpses them (unless one knows where to look). That's the thing about moose—they are challenging to spot, even though countless road signs warn of their crossings. They often stand still, blending into the forest with their gray-brown hue, rendering them nearly invisible. But I shall provide you with some moose-spotting tips. The prime time is typically early evening just before sunset when they often venture close to the forest edge to graze or drink. If you happen to be in a car, pay attention to open spaces and meadows surrounded by woods, as these offer the best chances of spotting one.


If you are out backpacking, there's a chance you might encounter one as well. If that happens, exercise caution, especially if they have offspring, as they can be protective and may attempt to intimidate you by approaching or even charge in your direction. Maintain a safe distance, for they are neither domesticated nor pets. Therefore it's also advisable to carry a pocket-sized pair of binoculars. (A wise purchase in general, if it was only in order to study the o-so-good-looking Norwegians in their natural habitat.)


Even though I live near the capital, I spot a moose at least twice a week. I often board the bus before 5:00 AM, driving from the valley where I reside through densely wooded areas to the city. Along one of the bends, there lies an expansive meadow where I frequently see a moose standing. I suspect the moose may be somewhat trapped between urban areas, making the best of its situation. I have also encountered them a few times near Sognsvann, a popular hiking area just outside the city. Thus, you need not venture deep into the wilderness to increase your chances of spotting one. If you wish to guarantee a moose sighting, you can visit Viltgården or Dyreparken in Kristiansand. The latter is highly recommended if you aspire to observe Arctic animals. Moreover, the enclosures are sufficiently spacious to provide the animals with an excellent living environment which can't be said about most zoo's.


And then the reindeer. Another (mythical) symbol of the Arctic landscape, these enchanting creatures with impressively antlered heads inhabit nearly the entire Arctic region. Even in Southern Norway, a substantial herd resides in Setesdalvesthei. Valdres also boasts a noteworthy population.


I can vividly recall a few years ago, in the heart of February, when I was in the Valdres mountains. It was a splendid winter day with fresh snow and soft, beautiful light. Suddenly, we heard a tinkling sound. We exchanged glances and initially wondered why there were bells ringing in the middle of winter. However, not long after, we caught sight of the first reindeer—an imposing alpha male. Shortly thereafter, a massive herd crossed our path. For twenty minutes, approximately 300 reindeer strolled by. It was a truly magical experience.


Reindeer have adapted significantly to their environment, primarily because there is very little food available in winter. Apart from a bit of moss and some birch bark, there isn't much on their menu. Consequently, reindeer have a significantly lower heart rate to conserve the scarce energy they have at their disposal. Therefore, it is best to leave them undisturbed. Do not approach them, no matter how tempting it may be.


And yes indeed, bears reside here as well. To put your mind at ease, their numbers are relatively low, numbering only in the thousands. Thus, the likelihood of encountering one is quite slim. However, if you decide to venture into the Norwegian wilderness bordering Sweden or explore the sparsely populated areas in the northern part of Norway, it is imperative to be well-prepared. Here are a few tips: Make regular noise either by singing the French national anthem loudly and repeatedly or use one of these bear-bells, and ensure you are attentive to your surroundings.

The probability of a bear attacking you is not necessarily high, but when startled, they might feel threatened. When camping, use scents to signal your presence. Bears, as it turns out, strongly dislike human urine. If you have the opportunity, urinate into a container or bottle (I understand that this might be somewhat challenging for the opposite gender) and spread it in a large circle about twenty meters from your tent. It doesn't have to be a lot, but the goal is to ensure that the bear smells that humans are nearby. In most cases, this will cause them to take off. If you wish to be absolutely sure, you can order a canister of bear spray. And stuff your wood away properly. Anyway, if you'd like to get to know more, a Youtube rabbithole is waiting for you.

Fun fact: Just one month prior to writing this piece, a bear was spotted in the middle of a field, less than 30 kilometers from Oslo.


For those unfamiliar with lynx, it is a rather large cat with enormous, endearingly fluffy paws. I have never encountered one in the wild, as they are quite elusive. However, I did once come across their paw prints in the snow, which was excitement enough.


The wolverine is in fact and endangered species with only a few hundred individuals left. Consequently, the likelihood of encountering one is exceedingly low. The Kristiansand Zoo houses one of these remarkable creatures, providing a highly impressive spectacle.


Attempting to provide an exhaustive account of the various bird species inhabiting different regions is a monumental task due to their incredible diversity. However, I hold a deep fondness for birds. While it may be a stretch to call myself a birdwatcher, I come rather close. This passion has been with me since childhood when I knew all the bird names by heart and could recognize each birdcall. Though that knowledge has somewhat faded, I still become genuinely enthusiastic when encountering a rare species or a magnificent bird of prey. My personal favorite is the dipper, a tiny black-and-white bird that frequents fast-flowing streams where it finds its sustenance. I have seen one once, and that remains my sole encounter. It is a creature with very specific preferences and requirements, and in this regard, I can relate entirely. For all you birdlovers roaming the lands, this book holds a great bank of knowledge on Norwegian bird species.


And then, of course, we have all the marine mammals, but I shall reserve a separate article for them since the quest to spot a whale or an orca can be a goal in itself.


What else could you encounter?


Mammals:

  • Red Deer: Another prominent deer species, red deer are widespread in Norway's forests and mountains.

  • Arctic Fox: This resilient and well-adapted species thrives in Norway's Arctic tundra.

  • Gray Wolf: Though rare, gray wolves have been observed in parts of Norway.

  • Badger: Found througout the entire country.

Birds:

  • White-tailed Eagle: Norway is home to one of the largest populations of these majestic eagles in Europe.

  • Golden Eagle: These birds of prey inhabit the mountainous regions.

  • Puffin: Found along the coastline, puffins are a favorite among birdwatchers.

  • Common Eider: Coastal areas provide habitat for this sea duck.

  • Capercaillie: A large woodland grouse species inhabiting the boreal forests.

  • Snowy Owl: These striking owls occasionally visit Norway during the winter months.


Marine Life:

  • Atlantic Salmon: This iconic fish is native to Norwegian rivers and is prized by anglers.

  • Cod: Abundant in the North Atlantic, cod is a staple in Norwegian cuisine.

  • Humpback Whale: Norway's coastal waters are a prime location for whale watching, including humpbacks.

  • Orcas: These apex predators can be spotted in Norwegian fjords.

  • Seals: Both harbor seals and grey seals can be found along the Norwegian coast.


These are just some of the diverse animal species that call Norway home. Norway's unique ecosystems and varied climate zones contribute to its rich biodiversity, making it an appealing destination for nature enthusiasts and conservation efforts alike. Go out and explore. And be kind to those beasts!

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