How Polar Bear Possibly Made It to Iceland Skip to content

How Polar Bear Possibly Made It to Iceland

How could a polar bear possibly make it all the way to Iceland? That’s a question many have been asking since a polar bear was shot in Northwest Iceland Saturday night. Some think the animal came on ice, while others believe it swam here.

The polar bear shot Saturday was found to be a grown female, still lactating, so can’t be long since it was followed by cubs. This was discovered after the carcass was dissected, according to

A report written in 2008 for the Ministry of the Environment regarding ways to respond in case polar bears come to Iceland, states that the bears can reach a swimming speed of up to 10 km/hour (6.2 miles/hour) and that they’re able to swim a distance of more than 100 km (62 miles), reports.

The shortest distance between Greenland and Iceland, where the Denmark Strait is the narrowest, is 300 km (186 miles). The Science Web (Vísindavefurinn) notes that a polar bear has been known to swim a distance of 320 km (199 miles).

The distance between Greenland and the shore where the polar bear was first seen on Saturday night is considerably longer, or about 600 km (miles).

A study quoted by the BBC in January of 2011 revealed that a polar bear swam continuously in the Beaufort Sea, North of Alaska, for nine days, covering 687 km (427 miles).

Jón Gunnar Ottósson, head of the Icelandic Institute of Natural History believes the bear that was discovered Saturday night swam a huge distance before coming to Iceland. “Either it was on an iceberg that melted or it could have swum all the way from Greenland,” he concluded.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Get news from Iceland, photos, and in-depth stories delivered to your inbox every week!

* indicates required

Subscribe to Iceland Review

In-depth stories and high-quality photography showcasing life in Iceland!

Share article