Manitoba is all about open spaces. Step a foot beyond its charming towns and cities and you’ve entered an untouched wilderness of the likes you could only expect from Canada. Think rugged plains, stunning coastlines, pristine boreal forests and vast, shimmering lakes. It goes without saying, therefore, that Manitoba is a haven for wildlife. From land to sea, this unique province provides a home for creatures great and small, be it majestic polar bear, mythical beluga whale or soaring eagle. And the best bit? Whichever time of year you go, you’re guaranteed to see an astounding array of wildlife. Here’s a little guide to our favourite species that call Manitoba home, with some insider information on the best time of year to see them, and where.
Manitoba’s star attraction, you’ll be pleased to know, can be spotted all year round, although October and November are prime viewing season. Churchill is the place to head to see these magnificent creatures, be it in the summer as they wander the tundra or in autumn, when they leave their summer habitat to make their way back to the sea to wait for the pack ice to form. Polar Bear viewing lodges can be found in abundance in Churchill and some are even situated directly on the bear’s migration routes. The bears are naturally curious, so you could be inches from the polar bears as they sniff and prod the protective fences that surround the lodges. Enjoying the ultimate ‘up close and personal’ experience, you’ll also venture beyond the fences on daily hikes and view the bears at eye level. Another great way to catch a glimpse of these creatures roaming free is by hopping in a specially designed tundra vehicle which will have you out driving across the rugged landscape for some bear spotting.
Friendly, playful and well, pretty adorable really, the Beluga Whale can be found along the waters of the Churchill River between late-June to late-August once the ice has broken up. They’re not very shy and extremely inquisitive, so whether you’re on board a boat, a kayak, or you’re snorkelling in the water with them, you’ll get a great view of these wonderful creatures. One things for certain, you’ll hear them before you see them. Known as the ‘sea canaries’ due to the unusual yet no less beautiful chirping and clicking sounds they use to communicate, follow your ears and before you know it you’ll be within touching distance.
Over 390 species of bird have been recorded in Manitoba. Unsurprising really, considering that Manitoba lies in the path of three migration paths. To add to this, the diversity of Manitoba’s landscapes, from thick forestry to grassy plains, allows for a huge variety of bird species to nest and thrive. Head out on a bird watching trip and you could see hawks, grouse, woodpeckers, sparrows and owls, amongst many many others.
Black Bears, Bison & Moose
Aside from the big names in Manitoba’s world of wildlife, there are some even more impressive creatures to keep an eye out for. One of the most spectacular is the Black Bear, and there’s no shortage of these giant creatures in this province. Roaming the forests and mountains, the Black Bear hibernates throughout the winter and can be found gorging itself on berries, roots and anything in-between through the spring and summer months. Keep a look out, too, for the remarkable bison, North America’s largest land mammal. It’s a seriously impressive sight watching them graze on unending plains. Oh, and let’s not forget Canada’s iconic moose. Incredibly tall (being the largest of the deer family) and rather funny looking, you’ll be able to spot them throughout the province.
The Northern Lights
Okay, we’re throwing in a bit of a curve ball with this one (we know, it’s not wildlife) but we just couldn’t NOT mention that Manitoba is one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights (one of the top 3, actually). You’re most likely to see them between January and April and it’s a sight that will leave you speechless. Watching those colours dancing on the perfect night sky, untouched by light pollution, is an experience you’ll never forget. Just imagine; polar bears, belugas and the northern lights all in one trip. Bucket list, anyone?