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By Carol Ann Quibell
Regardless of where you travel in Canada, wildlife viewing opportunities are around almost every corner.
Whether searching for whales off the coast of British Columbia, free range bison in Saskatchewan, grizzlies in the Yukon, snow geese in Quebec or wolves in Ontario there’s no doubt visitors are in awe by what they can see. Not only is Canada’s wildlife exceptional, their natural habitat is off the charts inspiring.
Whale watching in British Columbia is an extraordinary experience that is made possible by the tour operators who know where the Orcas (killer whales), Humpback whales or Pacific grey whales can be found.
From the months of May to October these majestic animals can be viewed on a day trip just minutes from the major cities of Victoria and Vancouver or, for the more adventurous, an exciting week long trip on a historic sail-boat filled with days of exploration may be even more appealing.
This is prime bear watching territory! British Columbia’s rare white Kermode (Spirit) bear, grizzly bears and black bears can all be found here. The only place in the world that the Kermode, with its white fur, can be found, is in the Great Bear Rainforest on the north coast of the province.
As an added bonus there’s an abundance of other wildlife in the lush forests including grizzlies. The nearby waters are filled with whales, dolphins, sea lions and salmon.
During the 1800’s thousands of scraggy bison foraged their way across the plains in Canada until they were almost wiped out by hunters who killed them with no thought for the future. Today the herds are being rebuilt, are protected and still the world’s largest land mammal easily recognizable by their massive head and shoulders.
The Prince Albert National Park is one of the few places the majestic bison are allowed to roam free and visitors can observe them grazing through the front window of their RV as they tour the park. Don’t ignore the rest of the wildlife though because there’s plenty to see and enjoy.
If you are going to be near Manitoba in the fall, then you want to visit the Riding Mountain National Park to hear the male elks “bugling.” Although they only make their creepy mating cry in the fall, elk can be seen year-round within the park.
Moose are a symbol of Canada for many people and this is where you can see them in their natural habitat, along with wolves, who are actually more afraid of you than you are of them.
Did you know the very best time to see polar bears is in late summer or during the autumn and one of the largest concentration of them can be found along the Hudson Bay?
Wapusk National Park is the location of one of the largest polar bear denning areas in the world and although the area is only accessible with a sanctioned tour operator it’s worth taking the trip for an incredible experience. Tours can be arranged in Churchill but plan ahead and make reservations so there won’t be any disappointment.
Wolf howling expeditions take place on Thursdays during August at the Algonquin National Park where the wolves may actually reply to those calls. No guarantees the wolves will respond but it should be a lot of fun anyways. Bring warm clothes, prepare to be busy for about three hours and leave your pets back in the RV.
Bird lovers will appreciate viewing the bald eagles, the abundant Canada geese, blue jays, the great Blue heron, Northern Cardinals, Peregrine falcon, the Tundra swan, Snowy owls and even the Lady bugs. Bring your camera, a tripod and a pair of binoculars.
If you see some trees along the waterways that appear to have been chewed off and there’s a pile of those trees along the shore there’s a very good chance there’s beaver in the area, North America’s largest rodent with large buck teeth and a very large flat tail.
Every spring and fall the beautiful snow geese migrate north for the summer and south for the winter and during each period they always visit the Montmagny area because of the shoreline of bulrush marsh which they love. This is the Snow Goose Capital with all kinds of observation sites and bird watching guides to help visitors learn more about the migration habits of these intriguing birds.
There’s a small arctic-nesting shorebird called the Semipalmated Sandpiper who during July and August stop-over at Mary’s Point in the Shepody National Wildlife Area. During low tide the fabulous mud flats are exposed creating a sandy beach which is attached to a rocky point and part of a larger Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve for the Sandpiper and the other three million shorebirds.
Every spring the grizzly bear leaves its snug bed in search of food after a long winters nap. Although their colors may be brown, silver-blond or almost black the grizzly bear always has it’s recognizable hump along it’s back. The best places to find them are along the famous Dempster Highway, the Haines Road, the Atlin Road or near Kluane Lake on the Alaska Highway.
It’s wonderful to drive along the many highways in Canada in search of wildlife and without a doubt there’s plenty to see. It’s important to remember these are wild creatures and should be treated with respect.
Pull over in a safe location, well off the road so traffic is not blocked and stay in your vehicle. Don’t even attempt to feed them! Not only is your food not healthy for them it’s just not safe but it is a fabulous opportunity for some candid shots with your camera.
It really doesn’t seem to matter which area RVers are traveling there’s always wildlife viewing opportunities although the animals sometimes can be so well camouflaged by the trees and vegetation it may be difficult to see them.
It pays for travelers to look more closely and really see the moose or bear hiding almost in plain sight next to the trees alongside the road. Canada’s wildlife viewing can be a serious adventure.
Tips in case you meet a bear
- Remain calm
- Group together if you aren’t alone
- Talk to the bear calmly but firmly
- If the bear stays still just back away slowly and leave the area. DON’T RUN!
- If the bear keeps coming towards you try staying still, raise your arms and speak loudly.
- Use your bear spray when he is 20 – 30 feet away in 2-3 second bursts.
Tips for camping in bear country
- Carry bear spray
- Keep the campsite clean and do not leave any food or garbage around
- When walking, hiking or cycling make noise as you go along whether with a bell or talking loud so they know you’re coming
Vancouver Whale watching: http://www.vancouverwhalewatch.com
Prince Albert National Park: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/sk/princealbert/natcul/natcul4/d.aspx
Shepody National Wildlife Area: http://www.fundy-biosphere.ca/en/amazing-places/mary-s-point.html
Wapusk National Park: http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/mb/wapusk/index.aspx