How Did the Polar Bear Come to Iceland? Skip to content

How Did the Polar Bear Come to Iceland?

By Iceland Review

There has been little or no sea ice close to the coast of the West Fjords lately and so it is a mystery how the polar bear, which probably originated in Greenland, could have arrived there.


From Greenland. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

Hjalti J. Gudmundsson, divisional manager at the Icelandic Environment Agency, told that there is a chain of sea ice 50 to 60 nautical miles west of the country.

It appears as if the animal went out on the sea ice, a single floe, and drifted towards Iceland with currents and winds. The floe then melted and the bear swam ashore, likely under difficult conditions, he speculated.

According to, GPS transmitters that were placed on polar bears in Canada a few years back showed that one of them swam 700 kilometers. The channel between Iceland and Greenland is 300 kilometers wide at the most narrow point.

It is impossible to state for how long the polar bear has survived unnoticed in Iceland. Zoologist Aevar Petersen at the Icelandic Institute of Natural History pointed out that polar bears can go for weeks without food.

They might also find something to eat on the beaches and survive for considerable lengths of time. However, that probably depends on the animal’s condition when it arrived to the country, he added.

Click here to read more about the polar bear.

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