WILDLIFE VIEW­ING: WILD CREA­TURES OF CANADA

2017 Travel Guide to Canada - - Table Of Contents - BY HANS TAMMEMAGI

Canada is renowned for her ma­jes­tic ge­ol­ogy. But our na­tion is also de­fined by an in­cred­i­ble va­ri­ety of crea­tures who in­habit the snow-capped moun­tains, the vast prairies, the lake-speck­led Cana­dian Shield and lengthy coast­lines. Here are some of these iconic an­i­mals, and where—if you’re alert—you can spot them.

FURRY BEASTS

Canada is blessed with sev­eral species of bear. The fiercest are the griz­zlies, who re­side mostly in the west­ern and northwestern part of the coun­try in forested and moun­tain­ous ar­eas. Griz­zlies can be seen from spring to fall (they hi­ber­nate in win­ter) on cruises along the Great Bear Rain­for­est or on sev­eral guide-led out­ings. They can also be viewed in sanc­tu­ar­ies at Grouse Moun­tain, Van­cou­ver, and Kick­ing Horse Re­sort near Golden, B.C.

Black bears, smaller than griz­zlies al­though still for­mi­da­ble, are found through­out Canada and it’s not un­usual to spot them while driv­ing in re­mote ar­eas or ca­noe­ing. Their fur can be black, brown and oc­ca­sion­ally even white, such as with the ghostly ker­mode or spirit bear found along the cen­tral and north­ern B.C. coast. Al­though black bears, like griz­zlies, are shy and gen­er­ally avoid hu­mans, if you en­counter one, keep a safe dis­tance away.

Po­lar bears are white like the snow of their north­ern habi­tat. Be­ware, they are not shy. In Churchill, Man­i­toba, the “Po­lar Bear Cap­i­tal of the World,” you can take a tour from mid-Oc­to­ber to early Novem­ber aboard a large-wheeled tundra ve­hi­cle that lets you safely get close to these pow­er­ful, at­trac­tive an­i­mals.

Noth­ing is more evoca­tive of Cana­dian wilder­ness than the spine-tin­gling howl of a wolf. The largest mem­bers of the dog fam­ily, wolves hunt in packs of six to ten through­out re­mote ar­eas. You can learn

about wolves, and even go for walks with them, at the North­ern Lights Wolf Cen­tre in Golden, B.C. At Al­go­nquin Provin­cial Park in On­tario, park rangers or­ga­nize “Wolf

Howls” where you can im­i­tate a howl, and hope to re­ceive an­swer­ing cries.

BIG HOOFED AN­I­MALS

Noth­ing sets the pulse beat­ing like the sight of a large bull moose with enor­mous antlers stretch­ing 1.8 m (6 ft.) across. The largest mem­ber of the deer fam­ily, moose are present in most forested wilder­ness ar­eas. Adept swim­mers, they are of­ten seen in wet­lands. Gros Morne Na­tional Park, New­found­land is an ex­cel­lent view­ing area all year. Bull moose can be ag­gres­sive, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the au­tumn rut. Drive care­fully in moose coun­try, es­pe­cially at night; moose en­coun­ters can cause se­ri­ous dam­age.

Once large herds of bi­son/buf­falo thun­dered across the plains of North Amer­ica pro­vid­ing liveli­hood for Indige­nous Peo­ples, but they were hunted close to ex­tinc­tion dur­ing the 19th and 20th cen­turies. Since then they have made a par­tial re­cov­ery and herds can be viewed in Wood Buf­falo Na­tional Park in north­east­ern Al­berta and south­ern North­west Ter­ri­to­ries, as well as Prince Al­bert Na­tional Park in Saskatchewan, and in Rid­ing Moun­tain Na­tional Park, Man­i­toba.

It is awe-in­spir­ing, but rare, to see an im­mense herd of hand­somely antlered caribou stretch­ing far across the tundra. From late April to early May, Arc­tic Haven Wilder­ness Lodge in Nu­navut will take you to watch the mi­gra­tion of ap­prox­i­mately 350,000 caribou.

SWIM­MERS

The beaver, Canada’s na­tional sym­bol, is a big, aquatic ro­dent with a large flat tail like a pad­dle and prized thick fur. Found in wa­ter­ways through­out Canada, beavers are in­dus­tri­ous, felling trees with their sharp buck­teeth and build­ing lodges and dams. Pri­mar­ily noc­tur­nal, beavers are best viewed at dusk. A Beaver Board­walk winds through wet­lands and past a beaver pond in Hin­ton, Al­berta.

Bel­uga whales, not much big­ger than dol­phins and white in colour, are called the ca­naries of the sea for their con­stant singing. Ev­ery sum­mer about 3,000 bel­u­gas gather in the Churchill River delta in north­ern Man­i­toba. You can get close by boat tour and lis­ten to them chat­ter­ing via a hy­drophone. Bel­u­gas are so gen­tle you can swim among them—a once-in-a-life­time ex­pe­ri­ence.

Orca, a.k.a. killer whales, cruise all oceans, but are par­tic­u­larly abun­dant around John­stone Strait near north­east­ern Van­cou­ver Is­land and in the Sal­ish Sea near Vic­to­ria. Ex­tremely in­tel­li­gent an­i­mals who live in ma­tri­lin­eal pods, their high dor­sal fins slice el­e­gantly through the wa­ter. Nu­mer­ous boat tours are of­fered. You may also see grey whales up to 15 m (49 ft.) long, es­pe­cially around Tofino dur­ing their mi­gra­tion twice a year in March and Oc­to­ber, as well as dol­phins, seals and sea lions.

The east coast and the St. Lawrence River are also prime sources for whale watch­ing. Ev­ery sum­mer some 15 species of whales in­clud­ing minke, hump­back, fin­back and the right whale come to the Bay of Fundy to mate, play and feast on the boun­ti­ful food churned up twice daily by the pow­er­ful tides.

Salmon live in both the At­lantic and Pa­cific oceans and are renowned for spawn­ing, that is fight­ing their way up­stream to lay eggs and die in the same fresh­wa­ter lo­ca­tion where they were hatched. Spawn­ing salmon, the lifeblood of the west coast, pro­vide food for bears, foxes, wolves, ea­gles and more, who then fer­til­ize the for­est with their drop­pings. Spawn­ing salmon can be seen in fall and the first half of win­ter at many lo­ca­tions, of­ten far in­land.

FLY­ERS

Fea­tured on our dol­lar coin, loons are duck-sized birds, re­gally pat­terned in black and white. Ex­cel­lent swim­mers, they catch small fish in fast un­der­wa­ter chases. Other than in the ex­treme north, their eerie, echo­ing calls can be heard on nu­mer­ous lakes across Canada, es­pe­cially in the Cana­dian Shield.

The bald ea­gle, a noble rap­tor with a

2-m (6.6-ft.) wing­span, builds enor­mous nests in tall trees across most of North Amer­ica. The bald ea­gle, with its white head and tail, is par­tic­u­larly abun­dant in west­ern Bri­tish Co­lum­bia. The best time to see ea­gles in B.C. is in fall and the first half of win­ter when they gather, some­times in the thou­sands, at spawn­ing rivers such as at Brack­endale and the up­per Har­ri­son River.

Canada geese are so com­mon across the coun­try they have be­come a pest on some golf cour­ses and parks. In the air, how­ever, they fly in an el­e­gant V-for­ma­tion. Once

mi­gra­tory, many now re­side here year­round.

There are three ma­jor north-south mi­gra­tory fly­ways (Pa­cific, Cen­tral, At­lantic) and nearly 600 Im­por­tant Bird Ar­eas in Canada (www.iba­canada.ca). At Oak Ham­mock Marsh, Man­i­toba, some days the sky is dark with birds and quack­ing re­ver­ber­ates like thun­der. The Belleisle Marsh in Nova Sco­tia is ex­cel­lent for sum­mer­time view­ing of water­fowl, pied-billed grebe, short-eared owl, north­ern har­rier, bobolink and war­bler species, and there are count­less bird classes found in the Bay of Fundy area. Beau­ti­ful flocks of gan­nets and colonies of puffins can be found on Bon­aven­ture Is­land and the Mag­dalen Is­lands in Québec, as well as at the Cape St. Mary’s Eco­log­i­cal Re­serve in New­found­land.

MUCH MORE

This is but a small sam­pling, a teaser, to en­cour­age you to get out­doors and see the vast panoply of crea­tures that live in Canada.

GRIZ­ZLY BEAR, YT • SHUTTERSTOCK/MARTIN MICHAEL RUDLOF

DEER, OMEGA PARK, QC • SHUTTERSTOCK/MARK BRUXELLE

FOX KITS, SK • SHUTTERSTOCK/PICTUREGUY

BIGHORN SHEEP, LAKE MINNEWANKA, AB • SHUTTERSTOCK/NATALIA PUSHCHINA

KILLER WHALE, VIC­TO­RIA, BC • CTC/PRINCE OF WHALES WHALE WATCH­ING

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