Bjørnøya (byörn`öyä), island, 69 sq mi (179 sq km), in the Barents Sea, c.275 mi (440 km) N of Norway; southernmost island of Svalbard. It rises to 1,759 ft (536 m). There are polar fox and polar bear on the island. Probably known to Norsemen in the 12th cent., it was rediscovered by Willem Barentz, the Dutch navigator, in 1596, and was formally annexed by Norway in 1915. It is also known as Bear Island.