UPDATED: This article was originally published in September 2018.
Canada is perhaps most famous for its winters – snowy mountains, hot apple cider and gnarly slopes to carve up. But there is another big draw in all seasons: the incredible variety of wildlife found throughout the country.
From the iconic moose and grizzly bear to oddballs like the beaver and hedgehog, if you enjoy seeing adorable, fascinating or enormous creatures in their natural habitat, there’s no better place than Canada. You won’t see wildlife, in sublime surroundings like this, anywhere else.
Here’s our top list of animals you might be lucky enough to spot an adventure around Canada’s best national parks:
Canadian nature reserves – whether up in the top of the Rockies or down in Jasper and Banff National Parks – are known for their bear sightings, and these guys are sure to draw a crowd.
The grizzly bear, with its shaggy fur and giant paws, can be found hanging out with its family or snacking on wild salmon in the higher reaches of the Canadian Rockies and around British Columbia and Alberta. The other type of bear you might catch a glimpse of is the Black Bear, which lives across Canada in the various forests and bushlands, although this one is a little harder to spot.
With a weight of up to 400 kg, the moose is the largest of the deer family and one of Canada’s best-known mammals. These animals have a noticeable hump on their backs, large antlers and a long face that resembles a horse; and due to their enormous size, you definitely won’t miss them if they’re around.
Moose are good swimmers, with thick hooves for walking through snow, so you have a good chance of seeing them year-round, from deep in Jasper and Banff National Parks, to the lakes and wetlands around Yoho and Glacier.
From the striking white-tailed deer with their white collars and bellies and maroon fur to the stockier, hairier elk grace with wide sweeping antlers, you’ll find deer in forests and open country across the Canadian Rockies, and in Banff and Jasper National Parks. The best part? Unless spooked, deer and elk are rarely aggressive and make great photo subjects.
With their thick bodies, webbed feet, buck teeth and flapping tails, beavers are as strange as they are interesting. The beaver cuts down more than 100 trees each year and is a busy animal, and also skilled builders. Most active between dusk and dawn, you may be lucky enough to see some wading along the river or paddling through wetlands anywhere there is water, such as Banff or Yoho National Park.
The porcupine is a pointy guy, and with over 30,000 quills sticking out of its body, it’s definitely something you don’t want to stick out. Porcupines use their prickly armor as a defense against predators and can even detach a few quills while swinging their tails at enemies as if to throw them. That said, these guys are mostly peaceful in nature and can be found minding their own business deep in the forests. So whenever you have the chance to go on a hike or forest adventure, keep your eyes open for these cute creatures.
6. Bison (Buffalo)
While there were once tens of thousands of bison in North America, now you’re most likely to see these guys roaming the open spaces of national parks, especially in Banff, after conservationists reintroduced herds of bison to the area. The bison is recognized by its robust coat, large head, horns and sturdy stature, which gives them a fierce and brooding appearance.
They are found all over Canada, from the forests, Rocky Mountains and national parks of Jasper and beyond, and they don’t call them ‘dull coyotes’ for nothing; with their slanted yellow eyes and cunning nature, these animals are known to be noisy and shady characters. Smaller than their wolf cousins, they tend to travel in packs and live on the prairies, plains and deserts of British Columbia, Alberta and beyond. They have even been seen in urban areas scavenging food scraps from the bins or foraging for food.
8. Great blue herons
No list would be complete without a nod to our bird-watching friends, and what better bird to name-drop than the great blue heron? This amazing creature has an ‘S’ shaped neck with gray feathers, a blue crown, yellow beak and long legs. Their features brighten around mating season, and you’ll see them strutting around rivers and wetlands in British Columbia national parks pretty much every year.
Grab your camera!
Whether it’s deer bounding through forests, beavers going about their dam business, or grizzly bears frolicking downstream, you’ll want to keep your camera close. In all of Canada’s unique national parks, from the Rockies to Banff, down to Glacier and Yoho, there is no shortage of wildlife to observe and admire.
Explore Canada’s incredible national parks and see beavers, bears and moose on a small group adventure with Intrepid now.
Feature photo by Damien Raggatt.