The polar bear is considered a marine mammal as it spends
most of its life on the drifting pack ice. A large number can
be found on the surrounding islands east of Spitsbergen,
yet you should be prepared to encounter a polar bear
anywhere on Svalbard. The bears give birth to their cubs
in snow caves on land, and the young bears walk with
their mothers until they are about 2 years old. Their diet
consists primarily of ringed seal, which is the most common
seal species in the waters surrounding Svalbard.
THE POLAR BEAR ATTACKS QUICKLY WITHOUT WARNING
Polar bears are impressive creatures. They are the world’s largest land carnivores and for many people they have become a symbol of the arctic wilderness. In the Svalbard area the population of polar bears is about 3000 animals, and the size of a grown- up bear varies from 200 to 800 kg. Humans are considered an alien element in polar bear habitat. The polar bear is incredibly strong and even young animals under 100 kg can be very aggressive and dangerous.
In Svalbard you can meet polar bears all year round. Please be cautious when moving outside of the settlement, preferably together with a local guide.
The polar bear has been protected since 1973, and it is considered a criminal act to pursuit, allure, disturb or feed a polar bear.
Good preparations are important to avoid an encounter with a polar bear.
- Be observant and try to move only in open areas.
- Carefully withdraw if you see a polar bear. Never pursuit the bear!
- The most polar bear visits are in camp. Find a location with a good view in all directions.
- Avoid setting up camp near the shoreline.
- All camps should be surrounded by trip wires.
- Store food securely, away from sleeping tents.
- Avoid cooking strong-smelling food inside tents, the odor remains in the tent canvas for a prolonged period.
- Be sure that your gun is in good serviceable condition and that is clean. A high powered big game rifle (caliber .308 win, or 30-06 or heavier ) is the best weapon for protection against polar bears.
Polar bears do not usually look upon humans as food, but they are naturally curious and will check out everything in their search for food. A really hungry bear will eat almost anything. If the bear moves directly towards you, make yourself visible early and also make noise. Shouting and clapping hands or starting an engine, i.e. a snowmobile or outboard engine will make the bear aware of you. This may be enough to cause the bear to withdraw.
Source: Norwegian Polar Institute
You can read more about the polar bear here: