Encountering dangerous animals

South Greenland -
The only dangerous animal you could encounter in summer, is a fox with rabies. It would be a rare encounter but they are easily recognised – they will charge you. If you encounter a rabies smitten animal you should shoot it or paddle away and notify local people. Being charged by a reindeer would be a novelty, we’d all love to hear about it. There are a few polar bears in summer, mostly around Kap Farvel and when there are large pack ice floes. Walrus have recently been spotted in the South, during spring (April), and it is a small possibility in dense pack ice.

Reindeer in the South is only found NW of Eiriksfjord

Hunting is only allowed if you travel with a registerered hunting outfitter but fishing licences are sold at local police stations for a nominal fee.

East Greenland -
The risk of meeting a polar bear is greater here, but smaller than at Svalbard (Spitzbergen). You should be prepared for encounter, especially if paddling outside Ammassalik fjord or if travelling before mid July.

If you encounter a polar bear, making the bear aware of your presence by talking to it while backing away, might be sufficient. Loud aggressive behaviour may invoke a protective behaviour on its behalf. A flare gun shot in the air can freighten it away. If you fire a flare towards the bear it is likely to either hit or fall behind it causing it to run towards you.

Shooting warning shots can scare the animal away but shooting the animal should only be done in self defence if it charges. The only official guideline for such incidents comes from Svalbard, where a maximum of 20m is the legal self defence zone... I have encountered polar bears on a few occasions, where backing away was enough.

Polar bear on the East Coast

Rabies infected fox might exist in East Greenland but it is rare. The main threat from a fox is that it steals anything it can drag away.

Walrus mainly exists far to the north of Ammassalik in summer (further south in winter), but at nearby Svalbard the walrus is on the increase and one or more animals were sighted in Iceland in 2005. No walrus has been reported in the area during summer since 2006.

If you see a walrus, get off the water. They don’t warn you but can suddenly charge your hull or onto your deck where they can easily hook their tusks in deck lines and straps. If attacked you might want to raft up and possibly you can keep it off with your paddles. If it continues to attack (which it most likely will), you may need to shoot to kill, before it kills you.

This walrus attacked myself and my group a few years ago.
Luckily, we were able to avoid shooting.

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