It is possible to spot animals while hiking St. Olavsleden. Granted: most animals will hear you barging through the dense forests, but if you walk quietly and refrain from speaking, you might spot a moose or reindeer.
The king of the Scandinavian forest: the moose. Bigger than reindeers, these towering animals are truly majestic. Even if you won’t encounter one, you will definitely see their droppings – it’s everywhere: small heaps of smooth, dark-brown bullets, with a size of 2-4 cm. Pilgrims, beware: hunting season usually starts in September. Wear bright clothes when in the forests during this month.
Reindeer are smaller than moose, with finer features and pointer antlers. While moose are wilde animals, the reindeer found in the mountains today belong to Sami who rear them. There are no wild reindeer left. Reindeer usually come in herds and can even be found chilling and relaxing on motorways – so be careful when driving!
Are there any bears in the St. Olavsleden region? That is a question we get from time to time. The short answer: yes. Brown bears. Are they dangerous? If you encounter them, especially with cubs, yes they can be. Will you come face-to-face with a bear? There is a small change – but it is possible. We have met people living in the region whole their lives, without ever spotting a bear. But over the last 10 years, there has been a pilgrim who saw a bear on her path. In general bears will hear you coming from far away and will do anything to avoid you. If you want to be sure never to encounter a bear? Tie a bell to your backpack of try singing songs while walking. The bears will not dare to approach you. More info.
Besides bears, mosquitoes seem to be top of mind when people travel up north. Sweden and Norway have the reputation of being the mosquito capitals of the world. And yes, you will probably encounter mosquitoes along your trip, but it is not the hell-on-earth as some people make it out to be. It depends on among other things the weather, the temperature, the sogginess of the terrain, how cold the winter was and the way you taste to what extend mosquitoes bother you. There are certain parts – around Gällö for example and in the mountains when there is still melting water left – that can have a lot of the annoying little insects. Take some light clothes with you that have long sleeves for these areas. And buy insect repellent – the local brand, because they often seem to work better than other brands.
There are many, many foxes in both Sweden and Norway! You might see a fox, or at least probably its droppings. But do you know what the fox says?
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