Since I just returned from my third visit to Sweden, I thought it might be a good idea to write an overview of the wildlife you might encounter if you spend some time in the outdoors and the best way to actually spot them.
I’ve spend quite some time in the outdoors in Sweden by guiding canoe trips and hiking the Bohusleden, and so far I’ve been lucky enough to spot a moose on two occassions, several roe-deer, a badger and maybe even a bear (it was dark so I’m not sure). Yet, there are still some animals I still haven’t seen and give me more than enough reason to go back one day.
Here is a list of wildlife in Sweden and how to spot them!
Seeing a moose in the forest is a impressive experience. Though most people see them while crossing a road. The moose – or elch as it is called in Sweden – is the largest of the deer family. The Moose can be found all over Sweden as it has the densest population in the world.
Moose have a dark brown body with long greyish white legs. Males are distinct with antlers that are shed each Winter and grow out again during the Summer season. They have a short and stubby hairy tail, long nose and long ears. Under the throat hangs a pendant of fur like a beard. Their hooves also act as snowshoes to support the heavy animals in soft snow and in muddy or marshy ground.
Facts about Moose in Sweden
Height: 170 – 210 cm (at shoulder)
Weight: 200 – 360 kg (female), 380 – 850 kg (male)
Lifespan: 12 – 25 years
Population in Sweden: The Summer population is estimated to be 300,000–400,000 moose. Around 100,000 are hunted each Autumn.
Natural predators: Man (hunting + traffic) Wolf, Brown Bear
How to spot them?
The best time to see them is to spend some time in nature. Moose prefer forests, but they are often seen close to towns and farm lands as well. Despite their size, it might be hard to notice them in between the trees. Since they are very shy, they will hide when they hear, see or smell you. Hearing cracking branches often is the best way to be aware of their presence. Also you will likely see lots of moose droppings on trails.
If you are on a road trip on Swedish roads, chances are high to see them as well, since most tourist catch a glimpse of them while they are crossing a road.
Best location: Central Sweden
The wolf is the hardest animal to spot in Sweden as they are shy, well camouflaged and often move during the night. Wolves are territorial and a wolf family covers a huge terrain making it very unlikely to run into them. Hearing a wolf howl is more likely and probably more rewarding.
The Grey Wolf in Scandinavia is the largest member of its family, with males averaging 50 kg, and females 40 kg. Its winter fur is long and bushy, and is usually mottled gray/yellowish in color. The chin and throat are almost always white. Unlike many hunting and husky dogs that may look a bit like wolves, the Scandinavian wolves are never white above the eyes. They often have black markings on legs, in the face, along their back and a dot halfway down the tail.
Facts about Wolves in Sweden
Height: 80 – 90 cm (at shoulder)
Weight: 35-45 kg (female), 45-55 kg (male)
Body length: 140-180 cm (with tail, male), 140-165 cm (with tail, female)
Tail length: 50 cm (male), 35-40 cm (female)
Lifespan: Wolves rarely become older than 12 years, but most wolves die at a young age, even during their first year. Only one out of ten wolves that are born are estimated to make it into adulthood and have it’s own litter.
Population in Sweden: The population is estimated to be 400 – 500, a number that is recovering after being almost extinct.
Predators: Man (hunting + traffic), other Wolves
How to spot them?
There are hardly any Wolves in the Northern 50 percent of Sweden because of reindeer herding, and not in the very South either. To be specific, go to Dalarna, Västmanland, Örebro, Bergslagen, Gävleborg or Värmland. These regions are virtually covered by wolf territories. Basically in these areas any forest you visit will be inside a wolf territory. Still, as they are very shy and have excellent sense of smell, it is nearly impossible to see them. Most sightings happen when wolves attack dogs to protect their territory. Winter season is easier as you can see their tracks in the snow.
Bears are shy, peaceful and very difficult to see in the wild so there is no need to worry. Besides, bears feed themselves on berries and ants and are rather herbivore than carnivore.
Facts about Bears in Sweden
Height: 100 – 280 cm, up to 135 cm to the shoulder
Weight: 60 – 100 kg (female) 100 – 250 kg (male)
Lifespan: 20 – 30 years
Hibernation period: October/November – April/May
Mating period: May – June
Breeding period: January – February
Population in Sweden: 3500
How to spot them?
Bears can be found in the Northern two thirds of Sweden. Which means from Dalarna/Gävleborg and all the way up to the North. Researchers have shown that Central Sweden with Dalarna, Gävleborg and Jämtland are the most densely populated areas with Bears in Sweden. Spending time in the outdoors will increase your chances of seeing one, though they are very shy. Joining a bear tour is your best option if you really want to see one.
Protected in Sweden since 1969, the wolverine is still rare in Sweden, with around 600 wild individuals, and it is still one of Sweden’s most threatened species. They are territorial animals and defend large, gender-exclusive territories. Male and female territories overlap each other, and they have strong family bonds. They have a reputation for being greedy and hunting just for the love of killing but it is actually quite a bad hunter and scavenger. Wolverines are opportunistic feeders which means they eat a variety of foods depending on availability. They primarily scavenge dead animals.
The wolverine is the largest terrestrial member of the weasel family. A larger cousin to otters, weasels and mink, the wolverine has a broad head, small eyes and short rounded ears with dark brown fur, and often has a lighter-colored face mask and stripe running down both sides of its body. The wolverine is powerfully built and has short legs with wide feet for traveling across the snow. The wolverine is a good tree climber and also a good swimmer.
Facts about Wolverines in Sweden
Length: 95 – 100 cm
Height: 40 cm (at the withers)
Weight: 12 – 18 kg (male), 8 – 12 kg (female)
Lifespan: 10 – 12 years
Population in Sweden: An estimated 600-700 individuals. The population has grown in recent years and also spread South to forested areas in Central Sweden like Gävleborg and Dalarna.
Natural predators: Man (protective and illegal hunting)
How to spot them?
The wolverine can be found primarily in remote reaches of Sweden’s mountainous regions. Like in Norrbotten, Västerbotten and Jämtland, but now also further South in the forested regions of Dalarna and Hälsingland. It’s not easy to see them, but most people see them by chance while skiing in the mountains in Winter. The’re easier to spot against the snowy white background. Use your binoculars!
Lynx probably is the most difficult mammal to spot in Sweden as few people ever get to see a Lynx in the wild. The good news however, is that Lynx has spread to all areas of Sweden.
The Lynx has powerful legs, with slightly longer hind limbs adapted for springing. The large ears are adorned with conspicuous black tufts, and the long cheek hair hangs down to form a facial ruff, appearing almost mane-like in winter. The coat is long and extremely dense, especially over the winter, and is more variable in colouration than in any other felid.
Facts about Lynx in Sweden
Length: 90 – 110 cm
Height: 60 – 75 cm (at the withers)
Weight: 20 – 28 kg (male), 15 – 20 kg (female)
Lifespan: 10 – 14 years
Population in Sweden: An estimated 1250 individuals.
Natural predators: Man (hunting + traffic)
The Lynx is a strict carnivore, consuming one or two kilograms of meat every day. This extremely efficient hunter uses fine-tuned techniques to bring down animals much larger than its own size, delivering a fatal bite to the neck or snout of an unsuspecting deer. It’s main prey is Reindeer in Northern Sweden while Roedeer is the main prey in the South.
The Eurasian lynx males are inhabiting large home ranges, within which one or more females reside. While female territories tend to exhibit little overlap, male territories often overlap to some extent, although males normally avoid each other. The lynx uses various scent marks, including urine, faeces and scrapes to mark territory and also to communicate with neighbours.
How to spot them?
The lynx has spread to all areas of Sweden. And some of the more densely populated areas are Sörmland, Uppland and Bergslagen, not far from Stockholm. Remember that the lynx is most active around dawn and dusk. That’s when people tend to see them. Early mornings are probably your best bet. Lynx can also be seen in the mountains, above the tree line.
Need more tips for spotting wildlife in Sweden? Check out our post ‘How to spot wildlife in Sweden?’