When it comes to animal magnetism, polar bears and beluga whales attract a lot of attention, and the goal of seeing them has earned a spot on many a bucket list.
But northern Manitoba is home to wondrous creatures of all kinds — hundreds of bird species, huge herds of caribou, black bears, wolves, foxes, massive moose, muskrats and dozens of other mammals including, of course, the great Canadian beaver.
Eco-tourism is a growing industry, along with traditional big-game hunting at drive-in and fly-in lodges that dot the northern landscape.
In recent years, orcas (killer whales) have been spotted in Hudson Bay, and a few grizzly bears have made an appearance on land. The subarctic transition zone provides diverse habitats that encompass everything from rocky flats, Precambrian Shield, boreal and alpine forest, freshwater lakes, whitewater rivers, coastal dunes, tundra and mud flats. Remarkably adaptable northern animals include wood frogs who freeze solid during winters and thaw out come springtime, tiny shrews who live on insects, and lemmings who provide sustenance to predators such as foxes, weasels and owls. Arctic fox and Arctic hare blend in with the snow in winter, and the snowshoe hare is born prepared to survive, with a coat and the ability to fend for itself by the time it’s four week old.
Seen and Herd
Great herds of caribou follow migration routes that may take them well over 1,000 kilometres from winter habitats to summer ranges in the North. Prey for hunters and grey wolves — who may sports coats of brown and black as well as grey — female caribou may seek safety on lake islands to calve.
Well equipped for life in a northern climate, they have hair on their snouts and their concave hooves help them walk on snow and dig for lichens. Herbivores who are related to reindeer, both male and female caribou have antlers. If you don’t spotone in the wild, check your pockets.The caribou is featured on the back of Canada’s quarters.