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9 Incredible Places to See Wildlife in Canada

Charlotte Boswell

The world’s second largest country that borders three oceans and encompasses everything from snow-capped mountains and Arctic tundra to temperate rainforest and rolling grasslands, Canada is gloriously wild and incredibly diverse. With 47 national parks, over 151,000 miles of coastline and numerous lakes and reserves, Canada is a spectacular place to see wildlife. From grizzly bears to killer whales and moose to polar bears, the possibilities for an animal-related adventure are abundant.

1. The Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia

Glacial fjords, ancient cedars and the elusive spirit bear await in British Columbia’s mighty Great Bear Rainforest. Comprising of 6.4 million hectares, this sprawling region is located on the Pacific Coast of British Columbia and makes up the world’s largest coastal temperate rainforest. Untamed and relatively undisturbed, the Great Bear Rainforest is home to grizzly bear, black bear and the mysterious Kermode bear, locally known as the Spirit bear. This rare subspecies of the American black bear has a unique cream coloured coat, with your best chances of seeing these majestic creatures in the wild during Septembers and October. Cougars, wolves and salmon also thrive in this region making it an excellent place for wildlife viewing. The rainforest also harbours giant trees including a 90-metre Sitka spruce and thousand-year old western red cedars.

spirit bear great bear rainforest
Spirit bear / Image credit: Maximilian Helm

2. Northwest Passage, Nunavut

The historical and iconic Northwest Passage that links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans is dotted with islands and waterways that are home to all of the ‘Arctic Big Five’ – polar bear, walrus, musk ox, beluga whale and the elusive narwhal. During the summer, the Northwest Passage houses one of Canada’s largest groups of polar bears as they gather to stalk prey which is easier once the ice starts to melt away. Walrus are usually found on ice clusters feasting on shrimp and crab and the magnificent musk ox can be seen usually in small family groups in the tundra. Perhaps the most difficult of the Big Five to spot is the mysterious narwhal – travel to the Lancaster Sound or Baffin Island for the best chance to spot these beautiful creatures. In addition to the Arctic Big Five, the Northwest Passage in Nunavut offers ample opportunity to see seal, arctic fox, reindeer, caribou, lemmings and a wealth of birdlife, who all manage to survive the harsh climate of Canada’s frozen north.

artic fox northwest passage
Arctic fox / Image credit: Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

3. Churchill, Manitoba

Located in the far north of Manitoba on Hudson Bay, the remote town of Churchill is known as the polar bear capital of the world. These magnificent creatures are one of the largest species of bear – weighing up to 700kg and standing up to three metres tall. During the autumn, a large number of polar bears migrate to the shore to feed which offers visitors the opportunity to come face-to-face with these powerful creatures in their natural habitat. Take a tundra vehicle tour over the snowy and icy terrain and follow the bears as they gather along the shores of Hudson Bay. After winter as the ice melts away and waters start to warm, thousands of Beluga whales inhabit in the Churchill River. Take a kayak or boat trip to see these beautiful animals who are nicknamed ‘sea canaries’ due to their strange high-pitched whistles and underwater chirping. Churchill is also renowned for being a great place to witness the colourful phenomenon – the Northern Lights.

polar bears churchill
Polar bears 

4. Banff National Park, Alberta

Established in 1885, Banff in Alberta was Canada’s first national park and is now one of the country’s most popular destinations. Home to the snow-capped Rocky Mountains and beautiful turquoise lakes including the iconic Lake Louise, Banff National Park is also a wonderful place to view Canada’s diverse wildlife. The parks alpine forest and tundra terrain allows grizzly bear, moose, caribou, bighorn sheep and mountain goat to freely roam the landscape. For your best chance to spot a grizzly bear, drive to the Icefields and Bow Valley Parkway which is a popular place for these wonderful creatures to inhabit. Caribou and moose can be easily seen grazing on the rolling plains, whereas mountain goats and bighorn sheep can be spotted on the slopes of Mount Fairview as well as on the Plain of Six Glaciers.

grizzly bear banff
Grizzly bear

5. Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario

Algonquin Provincial Park in south eastern Ontario is a vast area of gleaming lakes, maple hills and rocky ridges and is home to one of Canada’s largest mammals – the elusive Algonquin moose. One of the easiest places to spot these huge animals is on the roadside along the Highway 60 corridor along with white-tailed deer, however if you want to spot a moose in its natural habitat it’s a little harder. How about taking a sunrise canoe on a deserted lake? Or a gentle hike through the rolling hills at the crack of dawn? Alternatively the Beaver Pond Trail offers excellent views of two large beaver ponds and elsewhere in the park you may also see wolves, chipmunks and black bears.

moose algonquin park
Algonquin moose
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6. Sidney, British Columbia

Located on the northern tip of Vancouver Island in the Saanich Peninsula in British Columbia, Sidney is a picturesque and quaint town and is one of the prime whale watching destinations in Canada. Situated on the Salish Sea, there is an abundance of killer whales in the region and they can often be seen breaching from Sidney’s waterfront. For a more reliable chance of seeing these majestic creatures in the wild, take a whale watching boat trip from the town, all of which offer incredibly high chances of sighting whales. Other mammals known to frequent Sidney’s waterfront include seal, porpoise and river otter. It is also the gateway to the southern Gulf Islands National Park Reserve which offers ample opportunity to view wildlife, kayak through the waterways and birdwatch.

killer whale sidney
Killer whale

7. Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan

Established in 1927, Prince Albert National Park in central Saskatchewan is a vast area home to boreal forest, grassland and winding waterways. Free-roaming bison mingle with wolves, elk and bear throughout the park. Often spotted on the banks of the Sturgeon River, the giant bison are protected and managed in the park but have the freedom to roam as they wish. Prince Albert National Park is also famous for its abundance of lakes including Waskesiu, Kingsmere and Crean Lake which provide a wonderful sanctuary for the park’s 195 species of bird. Although summer is a very popular time to visit the park, fall is incredibly beautiful and quiet where visitor numbers dramatically fall, and autumnal colours sweep throughout the park.

elk prince albert national park

8. Elk Island National Park, Alberta

Elk Island National Park lies some 35 miles east of Edmonton in the Canadian province of Alberta. It is renowned for playing an important role in the conservation and reintroduction of the American bison. During a visit to the park visitors are able to join a guided tour in order to see how Elk Island has helped bring the bison back from the brink of extinction. It is also one of the only places in Canada where you can witness a ‘bison traffic jam’ where you can find yourself in the middle of a herd from inside your car. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get so close to these prehistoric behemoths. Wildlife enthusiasts can also spot elk, various species of deer and moose as well as over 250 species of bird. Elk Island National Park is a wonderful spot to camp for the night – enjoy the beautifully clear skies, take gentle hikes through the park and spend some time kayaking over the glistening lakes.

bison elk island national park
Bison / Photo credit: Ted Drake

9. The Gulf of Saint Lawrence, Quebec

The Gulf of Saint Lawrence into Quebec acts as the outlet for the North American Great Lakes into the Atlantic Ocean via the Saint Lawrence River. The waters here are incredibly rich with wildlife thanks to the nutrient-rich streams and rivers that carry sediment from the inland lakes, making the Gulf of Saint Lawrence one of the world’s largest estuary ecosystems. From May to October up to 13 species of cetaceans inhabit the waters of Saint Lawrence including minke, beluga, sperm and the giant blue whale. It is also possible to see beautiful humpback whales in the Saguenay Fjord where they swim up o the river mouth to feed. Take a boat trip for the best opportunity to see these giant creatures in the wild, where you will also have the chance to spot dolphin, harbour seal and porpoise.

humpback whale gulf of saint lawrence
Humpback whale

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