Svalbard has a rather big population of ice bears, but you do not get the right picture if you only focus on ice bears – there are so many other animals that you can see here. I already talked about the Svalbard reindeer I saw at Isfjord Radio. It is almost like “Garden Edens” since they are not afraid of humans.
The same is with the grouse (Rype) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lagopus_muta_-Iceland-8.jpg , that you can get so close that you almost can pick them up from the ground.
Another animal is the Arctic Fox. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_fox It is a cute little fox that is totally white during the winter. I found this little chap at the reception.
You find furs and skins everywhere. Svabard always attracted Trappers. They came to hunt and trap and then sold the skins. Normally they had a “Trappe’s station” with many smaller huts with only a fire place and a bed in the area. So they could ski around in the area and check the traps.
The Ice Bear is of course the King of the Island. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polar_bear When it was allowed to hunt the polar bear, it was so hard hunted that there was only a couple of bears left. Between 1965 and 1973 the ice bear was protected in Norway and since 1973 it is totally banned. Ice bears can only be shot in self-defense. This made the population is strong again. Ice bears are cute – especially when they are small, but they are very dangerous animals and in case you are attacked by an ice bear you will probably not survive, Therefore you must carry a rifle when you are outside Longyearbyen. When we went to the dog yard our guide had her rifle between us in the front of the car.
It is a bit unusual feeling. You also see notes at the shops where they ask the customers to leave the gun and rifle outside.
Seal meat has always been important for the people at Svalbard and still they use the meat to feed the sledge dogs. Earlier the trapper always had seal meat outside the cabin. It attracted the ice bear and it was easy to shoot for the trapper. When the ice bear was protected, the trapper had to hang the seals so the ice bear could not get them and it should not be close to the trapper’s cabin. It could look like this when the trapper stored seal meat for the winter.
Walrus is also an animal you can meet on Svalbard. The Walrus is a very social animal and they love to lay side by side and have “close contact” to the other Walruses’.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walrus