As far as once-in-a-lifetime wildlife viewing goes, Churchill tends to appear at the top of the list. This remote area of northern Manitoba draws in avid wildlife photographers and enthusiasts like moths to a flame – and it keeps them coming back time and time again. Here are 9 wildlife wonders that will make your trip to Churchill unforgettable…
Let’s start this list with the cutest of all northern creatures: the arctic hare. Commonly mistaken for a giant cotton ball (okay, maybe not), this furry friend is notoriously hard to spot in the wild because of its ability to blend right in with the snow. But that just makes seeing one all the more worth while. Oh, and did we mention they are REALLY fast?
As one of the smallest mammals to stay above ground during the chilly winter months, the arctic fox is a resilient, adaptable creature that also happens to be fairly adorable and photogenic. Growing to the rough size of a house cat, the arctic fox spends its time hunting lemmings, living a communal, nomadic life.
Red fox (and silver fox, a melanistic form of the red fox) can be easier to spot compared to their arctic cousins, with fur that stands in contrast against Churchill’s white landscape.
As a Canadian icon (and the largest of all deer species), the moose is striking to see in person, with a domineering yet quiet presence that demands respect. With Churchill being situated at the juncture of boreal forest and tundra ecosystems, moose hooves come particularly in handy, acting as snowshoes and a means to scrape through snow when seeking moss and lichen.
While squirrels back home may be a dime a dozen, you’ll be surprised at how exciting it is to spot this small mammal moving against the stark, rocky landscape of northern Manitoba.
This arctic ground squirrel is mischievous in nature, named after the short piercing whistle it emits. Keep your eyes on the spaces between boulders and you might just see this scurrying, busy critter as it prepares for the long winter ahead.
While definitely one of the rarer animals to spot on this list, there has been an increasing number of reports of this furry critter in the Churchill area. With long, sharp teeth and claws, wolverines may have acquired a bit of a bad rap for being vicious – but there are actually shy creatures who prefer to travel alone.
As an elusive creature, wolves are all the more rewarding to catch a glimpse up in northern Manitoba. And there’s more to it than just snapping a once-in-a-lifetime shot, as seeing healthy wolves on the tundra usually indicates the ecosystem is also in a healthy position.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan like me, you will squeal (and maybe shed a tear, RIP Hedwig) every time you see a snowy owl. After all, it could finally delivering your letter to Hogwarts. With regal white feathers and gorgeous yellow eyes, the snowy owl is a popular photography subject, especially by birders who flock north to see this large owl. Numbers tend to vary widely each year, but owls tend to hang around during prime polar bear season (October and November).
The willow ptarmigan – aka the snow chicken – is often noticed and adored for one of its cuter features, furry feet that insulate for warmth. Although it is the largest of its genus, make no mistake, the willow ptarmigan is still prey and must adapt accordingly. The bird’s feathers change colour depending on the season, camouflaging expertly into snow banks in the winter months and bush/rock in the summer months.
Come on, you didn’t think we could make a list about wildlife wonders in Manitoba and NOT include the polar bear, did you!? It’s even polar bear week! But there’s good reason we give these majestic beasts so much attention. They are the kings and queens of the arctic, and you can see them right in the wild by foot, tundra vehicle or even helicopter on an arctic safari in northern Manitoba. The best times to view bears is in October and November, when the bears begin their annual move to seal-hunting territory as the ice freezes.