When it comes to Canadian wildlife, bears are time and again the stars of the show. Black, Grizzly, Polar… a holiday in Canada offers the unique opportunity to see multiple species in one incredible trip.
After chatting with our expert team from Prestige Canada I’ve put together a guide to the three most popular species you can encounter on our specially crafted wildlife holidays.
The North American black bear is the most common of all the species and can be found in forests all over the continent. Despite their name, the colour of their coats can range from light auburn to charcoal black, depending on their geographic location. They have short, rounded claws that help them to climb trees with a grace I certainly didn’t expect when I saw one for the first time.
Their territory, which they mark by rubbing their bodies up against the bark of trees, can stretch from 5km² to over 10,000km². You might be lucky enough to hear one communicating to its cubs or others by clicking, huffing, humming or grunting – although be sure you listen to your guide if a one starts vocalising towards you, as it may be an aggressive warning to back off.
Where to See Them
They can be seen in almost every province of Canada, so there’s plenty of choice when planning a viewing experience on your holiday. Our Pacific Rim wildlife tour is an ideal trip for those who want a wildlife focus to their itinerary and includes an unforgettable boat trip along the Clayoquot Sound to watch bears search for rock crabs on the beach.
Grizzlies are actually a subspecies of the brown bear. Although their ominous sounding name actually comes from their ‘grizzled’ brown fur, it is perhaps appropriate that their Latin name, Ursus arctos horribilis, means ‘terrifying bear’. It most likely originated from the fact that they are more aggressive than other species and are also fiercely protective of their young.
Grizzlies are larger than their black cousins, with a hump back (which is actually a large muscle) and longer front claws. They prefer to live in semi-open spaces and are now considered endangered due to sustained hunting and habitat destruction over the centuries.
Where to See Them
If seeing grizzlies is on your bucket list, I can highly recommend our tour to Tweedsmuir Park Lodge in the Bella Coola Valley. The tours operate in the autumn when the salmon come to spawn in the Atnarko River, which in turn attracts an unusually large number of grizzles to feast on their favourite fishy food source. It’s a sight not to be missed!
The largest living species of bear is the magnificent Ursus maritimus. Although their coats look pristine white, their skin is actually black and swathed in a thick under-fur that’s protected by transparent guard hairs. The species is known as Pihoqahiak in Inuit poetry, meaning ‘the ever-wandering one’ – an appropriate epithet for the solitary figures who traverse vast distances over the ice in the Arctic Circle.
Growing concerns over the state of the marine ecosystem of the Arctic has raised the profile of the species. As the animals are specifically adapted to survive in the sea ice, rising sea temperatures and melting icecaps have resulted in a worrying decline of their population in recent years.
Where to See Them
Undoubtedly one of the best places to see this spectacular species is Churchill, renowned as the ‘Polar Bear Capital of the World’. We recommend going there on our Arctic Summer Adventure to witness polar bears retreating inland away from the melting sea ice and 60,000 beluga whales arriving to mate and feed in Hudson Bay.