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Canadian Wildlife: All You Need to Know

One of the top things to do in Canada is to view its natural settings and wildlife. Canada is the world's second-largest country, and much of it is uninhabited nature. The landscape of Canada is diverse, with the Rocky Mountains, boreal forests, prairies, and Arctic tundra. This means you can see a wide range of wildlife in Canada. Its unspoiled habitats and low human population make it a wildlife haven.

Nature is an essential part of Canadian identity. Its lands and waters are known for their natural abundance and diverse wildlife. There are also many parks and preserves. The team of travel experts at Canadian Train Vacations know how to arrange a trip so you can see the magnificent animals that live in Canada. We have put together this guide to assist those looking for the best places to see wildlife in Canada.

What to take note of before going wildlife watching?

It is strongly advised that you research Canadian wildlife before embarking on your trip. It will help you appreciate wild animals in Canada and keep you safe. Respect wild animals, understand the hazards of the wilderness, and what to do in dangerous situations. Remember that any cornered animal that is unable to escape will most likely attack.

  • Never get too close or encircle a wild animal.
  • You must not feed the animals.
  • Keep a close eye out for moms with baby animals.
  • The minimum distance between you and a bear needs to be 100 meters.

What is the wildlife in Canada?

Canada is an animal lover's paradise, with 200 species of mammals, 462 bird species, and a vast array of marine life. Canada's vast forests, arctic tundra, and desert landscapes provide plenty of opportunities to see these creatures in their natural habitat.

A large whale breaches out of the water

9 Best places to see wildlife in Canada

Canada is a fantastic place to watch and explore wildlife. The possibilities for an animal-related adventure are numerous, ranging from killer whales to grizzly bears and moose to polar bears.

Here's a list of places in Canada where you can go to see wildlife.

1. British Columbia – The Great Bear Rainforest

This sprawling region covering millions of hectares on British Columbia's Pacific Coast is the world's largest coastal temperate rainforest. This rainforest is home to black bears, grizzly bears, and the rare Kermode bear. There are almost 6 million yearly visitors here. September and October are the best months to see these magnificent animals in the wild. Wolves, salmon, and cougars are also found in this area, making it ideal for wildlife watching.

A brown grizzly bear stands on a grassy riverbank in the Great Bear Rainforest

2. Nunavut – Northwest Passage

The iconic and historic Northwest Passage, which connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, is dotted with islands and waterways that are home to all five animals considered in the 'Arctic Big Five' - beluga whale, polar bear, musk ox, walrus, and the evasive narwhal. The mysterious narwhal is probably the most difficult of the Big Five to spot; travel to Baffin Island or Lancaster Sound for the best chance of seeing these gorgeous creatures. This place receives about 14,000 estimated visitors annually. The Northwest Passage in Nunavut also provides opportunities to see seals, arctic foxes, lemmings, reindeer, caribou, and various birds.

A person stands looking out at the blue waters and snowy mountains of Arctic Bay, Nunavut

3. Manitoba – Churchill

Churchill, located in far northern Manitoba, is known as the world's polar bear capital. Manitoba welcomes around 3.5 million yearly visitors. During autumn, a huge number of polar bears move to the shore to feed, providing visitors with the chance to interact with these powerful and beautiful creatures in their natural environment. Large numbers of Beluga whales inhabit the Churchill River after the ice melts, and the waters begin to warm. Churchill is also well-known for being an excellent location for viewing the colourful occurrence known as the Northern Lights.

[Explore: Best Polar Bear Tours in Churchill]

Three polar bears walk across snowy terrain in Churchill

4. Alberta – Banff National Park

Banff, Alberta's first national park, was established in 1885 and is presently one of the country's most popular tourist destinations with more than 4 million annual visitors. Banff National Park, home to the snow-capped mountains and beautiful turquoise lakes, including the iconic Lake Louise, is also a great place to see Canada's diverse animals. Grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, moose, caribou, and mountain goats can roam freely in the park's alpine forest and tundra terrain. You can be a part of adventure activities like hiking, biking, and more here.

Chipmunk sits on a rock in front of a turquoise lake and mountains in Banff National Park

5. Ontario – Algonquin Provincial Park

Algonquin Provincial Park, located in Ontario, is a huge area of glistening lakes, rocky ridges, and maple hills that houses one of Canada's largest mammals, the elusive Algonquin moose. You can also enjoy a canoe trip during sunrise on a lake. Alternatively, the Beaver Pond Trail provides magnificent views of two large beaver ponds, and you may also see wolves, chipmunks, and black bears elsewhere in the park. Each year Algonquin Provincial Park attracts around 8,00,000 annual visitors.

Aerial view of a lake and trees in Algonquin Provincial Park in the fall

6. British Columbia – Sidney

Sidney is a picturesque and quaint town on the northern end of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. It is considered one of Canada's top whale-watching havens with around 4 million visitors yearly. Killer whales thrive in the Salish Sea region and can frequently be seen intruding from Sidney's waterfront. Seals, porpoises, and river otters are among the other animals known to frequent Sidney's waterfront.

Aerial view of Southern Vancouver Island’s coastline near Keating and Sidney

7. Saskatchewan – Prince Albert National Park

Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan, established in 1927, is a big area of grassland, boreal forest, and winding waterways. Throughout the park, bison freely coexist with elk, wolves, and bears. This National Park is also known for its numerous lakes, like Kingsmere, Waskesiu, and Crean Lake, which serve as a haven for 195 bird species in the park. It offers numerous activities, such as water skiing, hiking, and wakeboarding. The park has about 2,56,000 yearly visitors.

Kayakers paddle on a lake in Prince Albert National Park on a sunny day

8. Alberta – Elk National Park

This national park is located in the province of Alberta in Canada, about 35 miles east of Edmonton, and gets about 3,60,000 annual visitors. It is well-known for its contributions to the protection and for reintroducing the American bison. Elk, moose, and deer, as well as over 250 bird species, can be seen by wildlife enthusiasts. Elk Island National Park is a fantastic place to spend the night and enjoy the beautiful blue skies, take gentle hikes through the park, and devote time kayaking over the gleaming waters.

A group of bison eating grass in a field in Elk Island National Park

9. Quebec – The Gulf of Saint Lawrence

The Saint Lawrence River drains the North American Great Lakes in the Atlantic Ocean via the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in Quebec. Cetaceans such as beluga, sperm, minke, and blue whale live in the Saint Lawrence River. Gorgeous humpback whales can also be seen in the Saguenay Fjord, swimming up to feed at the river mouth. Take a boat trip to see these massive creatures in their natural habitat, where you may also see dolphins, harbor seals, and porpoises. This place receives about one million annual visitors.

A yellow zodiac boat cruises past steep cliffs in the Saguenay Fjord

Most renowned wildlife in Canada

Wildlife and Canada go together, and witnessing animals in their natural habitat is still one of the most popular vacation requests. Canada is home to many fascinating creatures that deserve to be recognized. Here is a list of animals in Canada's wildlife, the animals that live in Canada.

Canada’s wood bison

The bison is the biggest land animal in Canada. Adults are covered in long shaggy fur that makes up the dark brown coats on their shoulders and legs. The bison have enormous heads and the backs have massive humps. Wood bison are currently found in Manitoba, British Columbia, Yukon, Alberta, and the Northwest Territories of Canada. 

A large wood bison walks through grasslands in Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Moose

Moose are the largest deer species. They are up to 1.8 meters tall from hoof to shoulder and weigh between 360 and 725 kilograms. Moose are immensely vigorous animals that can traverse almost any terrain, which makes them a common sight in Canada's wetlands and boreal forests. 

Close up shot of a moose with large antlers standing in the forest

Grey Wolf

Grey Wolf is the biggest species of wild dog, with males weighing between 95 and 99 pounds. They live in packs and have a clear hierarchy, with each pack comprising an alpha pair, their cubs, and offspring from previous years. They enjoy hunting deer, moose, caribou, mountain sheep, and goats.

Close up of a grey wolf’s face during winter in Quebec

Red fox

The red fox is a small mammal with a rusty-red coat, a sharp pointed face, and a light build that allows it to move quickly. They can be found all over the country, with the exception of the high Arctic and the islands off the coast of British Columbia. Their widespread distribution is due to their adaptability to various habitat types. Due to their keen eyesight, hearing, and sense of smell, red foxes make excellent hunters.

Close up shot of a baby red fox standing in long grass

Canada’s National Animal: The Beaver

Beavers, the country's national animal, have long been a part of Canadian culture and natural landscape. Beavers have distinctive flat tails, powerful jaws, and chisel-sharp incisor teeth that allow them to bite through tree trunks and branches. Beavers can be found all over Canada, especially around lakes and streams, but they can be tough to spot.

A beaver with wet fur walking into the water

Lynx

The Canada lynx hunts in the snow with paws resembling snowshoes and feeds on hares, ducks, and young deer. This quiet hunter can also climb trees and swim quickly to catch fish. The Canada lynx has small heads, tufted ears, heavy bodies, long legs, and short tails and varies in size from about that of a domestic cat to six times larger.

Two lynx in the snow

Bobcat

The bobcat, the smallest of Canada's three largest wild cat species, got its name from its tail, which appears to have been cut. The bobcat is around three times the size of a typical house cat. They can adapt to various environments, including forests, swamplands, deserts, and even urban areas. Despite its small stature, this tenacious feline hunts deer, which can weigh up to ten times its own weight.

A grey bobcat sitting in the forest

Cougar, or Mountain Lion

The cougar is considered one of Canada's most dangerous predators, capable of killing prey that is much larger than himself. Even a 270-pound moose is no match for a cougar. The mountain lion lives alone. Cougar territory in Canada is primarily found in Southwestern Alberta, interior British Columbia, and along the British Columbia Coast on Vancouver Island. 

A cougar sits on a rocky ledge in the forest

Black Bear

When you think of Canadian wildlife, the black bear is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Black bears are intelligent, curious, and always on the lookout for food. Black bears are mostly found in 75% of Alberta. 

A black bear with a fish on the rocky coastline of Port Hardy

A Grizzly Bear and her cubs

A grizzly bear can be identified by its white-tipped back hair, humped shoulder, and extra-long claw. A grizzly male bear can weigh between 200 and 350 kg and can stand three meters tall when on its hind legs. The grizzly cubs can breastfeed for up to three years. Also, the Cubs begin eating solid food at a young age, allowing them to become independent of their mothers' milk very quickly. The ideal spot to see grizzlies is on bear-watching trips in British Columbia during the annual salmon run when they gorge themselves on fish.

 A grizzly bear and three cubs sit in a grassy field

Polar Bear

Polar bears are the largest bears in the world, and unlike black and grizzly bears, polar bears are true predators, with meat accounting for more than 90% of their diet. They hunt seals and other marine mammals all winter long in the Arctic, then migrate inland to the Arctic coast as summer approaches. Polar Bears can be seen in their natural habitat in Churchill. Polar bears can also be found in Baffin Bay, Nunavut, and Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories.

A polar bear looks into the distance and walks along a frozen landscape

Caribou

The caribou is a well-known species in Canada, inhabiting the Arctic, boreal, and mountain regions. Caribou, also known as reindeer, feed on the tundra's abundant grasses and plants. An adult caribou can consume up to 12 pounds of food per day. Surprisingly, caribou are the only deer in which both males and females have antlers.

Caribou stands in tall grass and looks forward with trees in the background

Arctic Fox

The Arctic fox, one of Canada's most beautiful mammals, is known for its white fur, which is why it's also known as the snow fox. The Arctic fox is the smallest member of Canada's canid family. It can be found in Canada from James Bay to the top of Ellesmere Island, from the northern boreal region to the Arctic.

Close up view of an Arctic fox standing in a snowy field

Beluga Whale

Belugas are one of Canada's most recognizable whales, with their pearly white skin and "smiling" upturned mouths. Belugas are mainly found in the Arctic, with approximately two-thirds of the population spending the summer in Canadian waters. These exceptionally social mammals are known as the canary of the sea because of the whistles, chirps, squeals, and clicks they use to navigate waters and communicate with other belugas.

A beluga whale swimming with its head out of the water

Harp Seal in Newfoundland and Labrador

A harp seal, also known as a saddleback seal, is a medium-sized greyish seal with a black saddle-shaped marking on its back. Most of these seals migrate south in the fall to the Gulf of St. Lawrence or the waters off southern Labrador and northern Newfoundland. Otherwise, they are also found in the Canadian Arctic and Greenland. 

A harp seal with a grey coat lies in white snow

Muskox

Musk Oxen are native animals in Canada found in Greenland, Arctic Canada, and Alaska and are distinguished by their long curved horns, thick shaggy coats, and the strong odour emitted by the males. These sociable animals of Canada typically live in herds, and their huge thick coats allow them to survive terribly cold winter temperatures.

Two muskox standing on a rocky hill with red foliage behind them

Common Loon

This intricately dotted and stripped loon, also known as the great north diver, can be seen in most parts of the country except the far north, where temperatures are too cold. In the evening, the sound of a loon calling to its partner is both relaxing and magical for the audience.

Close up of a common loon with two chicks sitting on her back

Canada Goose

It's a joy to see these magnificent birds in flight gracing the skies. They have strong familial ties and frequently return to their birthplaces to nest. They are the world's largest geese, with some weighing up to 20lb! Their black heads and necks, combined with the white chinstrap, set them apart from all other goose species.

A flock of Canada Geese flying over the water

Atlantic Puffin

The Atlantic puffin is Newfoundland's provincial bird and the only puffin found in the Atlantic Ocean. They congregate in massive colonies on the coasts and islands to breed during the spring and summer. Puffins are strong swimmers who spend the majority of their lives at sea. They eat small forage fish and can dive as deep as 60 meters to catch them.

Close up of an Atlantic Puffin sitting on a rock

Bald Eagle

The bald eagle is arguably Canada's most well-known bird. This bird of prey is one of the most beautiful in the country, with dark brown feathers on its body and white feathers on its head, as well as yellow beaks. The best places to see these magnificent birds are near rivers and the sea.

A bald eagle sitting in a tree

Great Blue Heron

The great blue heron is Canada's largest heron. This colonial-nesting waterbird has a long neck, long legs, and a short tail, as well as a greyish-blue upper body with black and white markings on the crown and underparts. Great blue herons can be found throughout southern Canada.

A great blue heron stands in a lake with lily pads

Canada for wildlife lovers

Canada is a fantastic destination due to its spectacular mountain and lake scenery and an abundance of fascinating wildlife. Go through the list and you’ll have a general idea of what animals are in Canada. If you enjoy wildlife, Canada is the place to be. Travel to Canada for vacations and explore the various wildlife experiences here.

Herd of elk graze in a field with snow-covered mountains behind

Frequently Asked Questions

The northern regions of Canada are particularly rich in wildlife, with boreal forests and tundra providing habitats for many species.

Bears are an integral part of Canada’s wildlife. While some people may think that bears in Canada are friendly, it is important to remember that they are wild animals and should be treated with caution.

Canada is home to 60% of the world's bear population so if you travel to the right regions your chances of seeing a bear a quite high. The best chances to see a bear are in The Great Bear Rainforest and Jasper National Park. Bears are not common in urban or settled areas.

The Gray Wolf is an apex predator that can be found in most regions of Canada, and it plays a key role in maintaining balance within its ecosystem.

The wood bison is the biggest land animal in Canada, reaching a length of 3.8 m.

Train Trips for Wildlife Viewing in Canada

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