WILDLIFE VIEW­ING: CALL OF THE WILD

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

Canada’s vast, var­ied ter­rain pro­vides a habi­tat for count­less crea­tures, and the same can be said of its wa­ter­ways. After all, the land is dot­ted with lakes, laced by rivers and lapped by three oceans. Even the skies here are crowded be­cause this coun­try is home to three ma­jor north-south mi­gra­tory fly­ways and boasts nearly 600 Im­por­tant Bird Ar­eas. As a re­sult it sup­ports more kinds of wildlife than you can shake a cam­era at. Here are some of the most mem­o­rable, with tips on where to find them.

LIV­ING LARGE

Canada is blessed with sev­eral species of bears, in­clud­ing iconic po­lar bears. White, like the snow of their north­ern habi­tat, they are con­sid­ered the largest of all ter­res­trial car­ni­vores. In Churchill, Man­i­toba, the “Po­lar Bear Cap­i­tal of the World,” you can take a tour from mid-Oc­to­ber to early Novem­ber aboard a spe­cial tun­dra ve­hi­cle that lets you safely get close to them.

Griz­zlies, who re­side mostly in the western and north­west­ern part of the coun­try in forested and moun­tain­ous ar­eas, 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 at B.C. sanc­tu­ar­ies like Grouse Moun­tain in Van­cou­ver, Khutzey­ma­teen Pro­vin­cial Park out­side Prince Rupert, and Kick­ing Horse Resort near Golden.

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, red­dish brown and oc­ca­sion­ally even white, as ev­i­denced in 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.

These big bears are an ex­tra­or­di­nary sight, yet the spine-tin­gling sound of a wolf in the wild is equally im­pres­sive. The largest mem­bers of the dog fam­ily, wolves hunt in packs of six to ten through­out re­mote ar­eas. The num­ber of hu­mans who come to hear them in On­tario`s Al­go­nquin Pro­vin­cial Park is far greater. Park rangers or­ga­nize “Wolf Howls” where you can im­i­tate a howl, and hope to re­ceive an­swer­ing cries.

HOOF­ING IT

Noth­ing sets the pulse beat­ing like the sight of a bull moose with enor­mous antlers stretch­ing 1.8 m (6 ft.) across. Moose are present in most forested wilder­ness ar­eas and, be­ing adept swim­mers, 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.

Large herds of bi­son/buf­falo once 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 seen in Wood Buf­falo Na­tional Park in north­east­ern Al­berta and south­ern North­west Ter­ri­to­ries, as well as Prince Al­bert Na­tional Park in Saskatchewan and Rid­ing Moun­tain Na­tional Park in 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 250,000 cari­bou.

DIV­ING IN

The beaver, Canada’s na­tional sym­bol, is an aquatic ro­dent with a large pad­dle-shaped tail 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, they are best viewed at dusk. One pop­u­lar place to spot them is Jac­ques-Cartier Park near Québec City. It of­fers beaver-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties from May to Septem­ber.

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 that 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 mi­gra­tions in March and Oc­to­ber, as well as dol­phins, seals, and sea li­ons.

The Atlantic coast and the St. Lawrence River are also prime lo­cales for whale watch­ing. Ev­ery sum­mer some 15 species— in­clud­ing minke, hump­back, fin­back and right whales—swim into 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 rst half of win­ter at many lo­ca­tions, of­ten far in­land.

FLY­ING HIGH

Fea­tured on our dol­lar coin, loons are duck-sized birds, re­gally pat­terned in black and white. Ex­cel­lent swim­mers, they catch small sh in fast un­der­wa­ter chases. Other than in the ex­treme north, their eerie, echo­ing calls can be heard on nu­mer­ous lakes, es­pe­cially in the Cana­dian Shield. Canada geese, an­other na­tional icon, are so com­mon across the coun­try they have be­come a pest at some golf cour­ses and parks. In the air, how­ever, they y in an el­e­gant V-for­ma­tion. Once mi­gra­tory, many now re­side here year-round.

The bald ea­gle, a noble rap­tor most as­so­ci­ated with the United States, ac­tu­ally 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 rst half of win­ter when they gather, some­times in the thou­sands, at spawn­ing sites such as Brack­endale and the up­per Har­ri­son River.

On the other side of the coun­try, huge num­bers of ethe­real snow geese make quite a sight in spring and fall when they take their mi­gra­tory pit stops along Québec’s St. Lawrence River.

The Bay of Fundy pro­vides an­other avian spec­ta­cle. In late July and Au­gust, more than two mil­lion tiny sand­pipers

ock into the coastal re­gion to gorge on shrimp be­fore ying south. Mary’s Point in New Brunswick and Evan­ge­line Beach in Nova Sco­tia are two top places for view­ing.

New­found­land is also a hotspot for bird­ers. The Wit­less Bay Eco­log­i­cal Re­serve, for in­stance, has North Amer­ica’s largest Atlantic pu n colony, while the Cape St. Mary’s Eco­log­i­cal Re­serve is known for ra­zor­bills, cor­morants, kit­ti­wakes, and dive-bomb­ing gan­nets.

MUCH MORE

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

SHUT­TER­STOCK/JUKKA JANTUNEN

BABY BEARS, WAT­SON LAKE, YT •

WOLF, AULAVIK NA­TIONAL PARK, NU • PARKS CANADA/SU­SAN KUTZ

SHUT­TER­STOCK/AN­DRIY BLOKHIN

GANNET COLONY, BON­AVEN­TURE IS­LAND, QC •

TOURISM YT

DALL SHEEP, KLU­ANE NA­TIONAL PARK RE­SERVE, YT • DES­TI­NA­TION CANADA/

SEA LI­ONS, BC • PA­CIFIC YELLOWFIN TOURS

TOURISM NB

PUFFINS, AN­CHOR­AGE PRO­VIN­CIAL PARK, GRAND MANAN, NB • DES­TI­NA­TION CANADA/

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.