Do you have wildlife wanderlust? It’s that feeling you get when you spot a wild animal on your travels – the one that leaves you mesmerized and tingling with excitement. Ranging from the dangerous to the unique to the elusive, Manitoba is full of wildlife encounters you will never forget. Here are 10 of them…
1. Polar bears
They’re super cute, but they’ll rip your face off if they get half the chance. The mighty polar bear is the largest land carnivore in the world and Churchill is one of the only places where you can see them in their natural environment…safely.
There are many different ways to come face-to-face with the bears of Churchill. You can roam the land looking for them in a unique tundra vehicle, stay at a wilderness lodge (complete with protective fence), or if you’re a braver soul, you can walk among them (with a guide of course!).
Best time to visit: October to November
They sing, they smile, they swim right up to you. Getting in the water with playful beluga whales is one experience you definitely want to put on your bucket list. Hop aboard a zodiac or large passenger boat to watch these curious creatures or listen in on their conversations using hydrophones. And if you’re the more adventurous sort, you should try kayaking or snorkeling with these friendly sea mammals.
Northern Manitoba might not be the most known place to whale watch, but for those who have, it is an extraordinarily unforgettable one.
Best time to visit: Summer
It’s not the size of the fish that counts, it’s the memories waiting to be made. And there’s no better place to make those fishing memories than in Manitoba – we have like a Gazillion lakes! (Not an accurate count, but close.)
You can fish in the city or at a remote lodge. You can fish when the water’s flowing or when it’s hard. The fish are so big, abundant and waiting to be caught (and released) here that our Master Angler record books are always teeming with activity. Are you ready to start planning your perfect fishing adventure yet?
This is our provincial bird. It’s the Great Gray Owl. It’s North America’s largest owl and it’s absolutely majestic… and pretty elusive to spot. But that’s just one of the amazing species of birds you will encounter here. You see, Manitoba is nestled within three migration corridors where over 390 species of birds have been recorded and 287 are known to nest. Combine that with our diversity of habitats — grasslands, wetlands, boreal forest and sub-arctic — and you got yourself a birder’s paradise!
“Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?” Because snakes are awesome! Well, at least Manitoba’s harmless red-sided garter snakes are. Especially in Narcisse, which houses the largest gathering of snakes anywhere in the world. For two brief periods each year tens of thousands of red-sided garter snakes congregate at the surface of their winter dens. I’m not going to lie, when I first saw their spring mating ritual as a kid it made me think of this Raiders of the Lost Ark scene (minus the “very dangerous” asps).
The Narcisse Snake Dens are usually most active on Mother’s Day weekend (that’s the gift that keeps on giving).
Best time to visit: Spring and Fall
Not many know that the rich soil of our Manitoba prairies is full of ancient sea creature fossils. The largest one we’ve unearthed is a mosasaur named Bruce who measures in at just over 13 metres (43 feet) long! With four sets of terrifying and enormous teeth the mosasaur is sometimes referred to as the Sea-Rex because of its status as top predator. We need a T-Rex vs Sea-Rex movie, don’t cha think?
You will find Bruce – along with the largest collection of marine reptile fossils in Canada – in the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre. You can also try unearthing more sea creatures by channeling your inner archaeologist and signing up for an authentic fossil dig.
This is one wildlife species that is hard to encounter. Wolves like to keep their distance from humans, and honestly, do we mind that fact at all? You will find them in the wilder parts of Manitoba. They are intelligent, highly sociable and survive by working together as a group. Wolves are one of nature’s most interesting creatures.
Riding Mountain National Park and Whiteshell Provincial Park both have resident populations of wolves and the park interpreters can tell you more about where best to listen for them. And if you’re in Thompson, trek down the Spirit Way Trail, it’s chock-full of hand-painted wolf statues and has an enormous mural of Robert Bateman’s painting Wolf Sketch.
As you can see by the photo, you can have a VERY CLOSE encounter of the bison kind here. Bison are the largest land mammals in North America and one of Manitoba’s most recognizable wildlife species. They can grow up to six feet tall, weigh up to 2,000 pounds, run up to 60 km per hour and turn faster than a horse. They are a majestic symbol of our province’s pioneering spirit and catching sight of them grazing is still a wonder to behold.
Watching a herd of caribou move across our vast tundra landscape is a thrilling and unforgettable experience. Manitoba has three varieties of caribou: boreal woodland, coastal, and barren ground. They are the only deer in which male and females both have antlers. When the snow starts to fall the caribou embark on a migration that sees them travel as much as 2,600 km.
You can catch a glimpse of the fall migration – one of the greatest wildlife spectacles – on an Arctic Safari.
10. Canada lynx
You can’t have a list about animals on the Internet without mentioning cats (pretty sure it’s a rule). You will find the elusive Canada lynx in Manitoba’s vast boreal forest silently searching for prey to pounce on with their crazy-large paws. Just like most cats, lynx tend to be secretive and moderately tolerant of the human species.
Did your favourites make the list? Do you have a cool Manitoba wildlife story you would like to share? Tell us about it in the comments!
Top photo of polar bears by Alex de Vries Photography.