So many travellers head to Canada for its winter – snow-capped mountains, hot apple cider, gnarly slopes to carve up – but there’s another major drawcard: the incredible variety of wildlife found throughout the country.
From the iconic moose and grizzly bear, to quirkier fellows like the beaver and porcupine, if you enjoy seeing adorable, fascinating or enormous creatures in their natural habitat, Canada should be top of your ‘to-visit’ list. You won’t see wildlife, in sublime settings like this, anywhere else.
Here’s our top list of animals you might be lucky enough to spot on an adventure around Canada’s best national parks:
Canadian nature reserves – whether it’s up in the top of the Rockies, or down in Jasper and Banff National Parks – are renowned for their bear sightings, and these guys sure do draw a crowd.
The Grizzly Bear, with its shaggy coat and giant paws, can be found hanging out with its family or snacking on wild salmon in the higher regions of the Canadian Rockies, and around British Columbia and Alberta. The other type of bear you might just catch glimpses of is the Black Bear, which lives across Canada in the various forests and bushland, although this one’s a little harder to spot.
Weighing up to 400 kilograms, the moose is the largest of the deer family, and one of Canada’s most well-known mammals. These animals have a noticeable hump on their back, big antlers, and a long face kind of like a horse; and due to their mammoth size, you definitely won’t miss them if they’re around.
Moose are good swimmers, with thick hooves for walking through snow, so you’ll have a good chance at spotting them year-round, from deep in the national parks of Jasper and Banff, to the lakes and wetlands around Yoho and Glacier.
From the striking white-tailed deer, with their white collars and bellies, and reddish-brown coat, to the heftier, hairier Elk breed with broad sweeping antlers, you’ll find deer in forests and open terrain across the Canadian Rockies, and in Banff and Jasper national parks. The best part? Unless they’ve been spooked, deer and moose are rarely aggressive and make for great photo subjects.
Fans of the kid’s cartoon Angry Beavers will be particularly excited about this one; with their stocky bodies, webbed feet, buck teeth, and slapping tails, beavers are as odd as they are interesting. Cutting down over 100 trees every year, the beaver is a busy animal, and crafty builders too. Most active between dusk and dawn, you might be lucky enough to spot some bobbing along down the river or paddling through wetlands anywhere there’s water, such as Banff or Yoho National Park.
The porcupine’s a spiky fellow, and with over 30,000 quills sticking out of its body, it’s definitely something you don’t want to go poking. The porcupines use their prickly armour as a defence against predators, and can even dislodge a few quills as they swing their tail at enemies, as if they’re throwing them. That said, these guys are mostly peaceful by nature, and can be found minding their own business deep in the forests. So any time you’ve got the chance to go on a hike or forest adventure, keep your eyes peeled for these cute critters.
6. Bison (Buffalo)
While there were once tens of millions of bison in North America, now you’re most likely to spot these guys roaming around open areas in national parks, particularly in Banff after conservationists reintroduced herds of bison to the area. The bison is recognised by its rugged coat, big head, horns, and sturdy stature, giving them a fierce and brooding appearance.
Found all over Canada, from the forests, Rocky Mountains, and national parks of Jasper and beyond, they don’t call them ‘wily coyotes’ for nothing; with their slanted, yellow eyes and crafty nature, these animals are renowned for being boisterous and shady characters. Smaller than their wolf cousins, they tend to travel in packs and live in prairies, plains and deserts in British Columbia, Alberta, and beyond. They’ve even been spotted in urban areas, snatching leftovers out of bins or prowling for food.
8. Great Blue Heron
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 stunning creature has an ‘S’ shaped neck, with grey feathers, a blue crown, yellow bill and long legs. Their features get brighter around mating season, and you’ll spot them strutting their stuff around rivers and wetlands in the British Columbia national parks pretty much all year.
Grab your camera!
Canada’s wildlife is ripe with diversity and a year-round roster to keep any visitor stocked with the ultimate Instagram snaps. Whether it’s deer bounding through forests, beavers bustling about their dam-building business, or grizzly bears frolicking downstream, you’ll want to keep your camera close. In all of Canada’s exceptional national parks, from the Rockies to Banff, down to Glacier and Yoho, there’s no shortage of wildlife to observe and admire.
Explore Canada’s incredible national parks and spot beavers, bears and moose on a small group adventure with Intrepid now.
Feature image by Damien Raggatt.