(Main picture by Destination Canada)
Humpback Whales spend from April to October in the North Atlantic waters off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick. Early fall is an excellent time of the year for whale-watching as this is when the whales migrate from the Caribbean to warmer seas.
Humpbacks are often seen breaching or jumping out of the water – a behavioural pattern that always draws gasps from onlookers.
The whales can often also be seen from land on many viewpoints on Canada’s eastern coastline, or even by sea kayak, while several vessel operators offer tours.
Minke, Fin, Blue, Sperm, Pilot whale and Orca (technically a large dolphin) are all found in abundance; however, the North Atlantic Right Whale is now considered near extinction: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says only about 450 of these whales remain along the Atlantic coast of Canada and the U.S.
For whales, dolphins and porpoises species that are neither endangered nor threatened, a general minimum approach distance of 100 metres applies.
Polar Bears of Churchill
Manitoba is well known for an annual wildlife event that takes place each autumn in late September, October and early November.
The King of the Arctic, the Polar Bear, congregates in and around the southern coast of the Hudson Bay as well as around the town of Churchill, a tiny community of just 900 residents.
While here the bears scavenge and build up fat stores as they wait for the water to freeze. These amazing marine mammals then move out onto the sea ice from where they spend the rest of the year hunting seal and fish.
These Megafauna are viewed from the safety of a tundra buggy which can hold up to 40 people. The enclosed vehicles are propped up on extremely large tires with some even having an outdoor viewing platform.
Depending on conditions, it can be a tight timeframe to experience this phenomenon for as soon as the bay freezes over the bears leave.
Those that come back to shore are mostly pregnant mothers seeking icy dens to give birth in the spring.
Caribou of Northern Canada
Autumn is a fabulous time of year to spot caribou as huge herds migrate from the north to spend fall and winter in Canada’s forests.
Caribou herds roam across the vast open spaces of the north during warmer months, and one of the largest is the Qamanirijuaq Caribou herd, thought to number 350,000.
This herd moves to the northern tundra of the Nunavut province in spring and then, in the autumn, returns to the Boreal Forest. Migration is the time to see these incredible ungulates and there are specific places on route, such as Baker Lake in Nunavut, where guides will take guests to see the animals. A First Nation-run lodge is nearby and offers very comfortable accommodation.
Another example of a migratory group is the Pen Island herd of northern Ontario, thought to number at least 10,000. As the eastern part of Pen Island is in the Northwest Territory, this is part of its range, as is northern Manitoba. Migratory caribou are often of a specific type known as barren ground caribou, but it is thought that the Pen Island herd is woodland caribou or perhaps even a unique subspecies.
There are also caribou tours in British Columbia, in the most northern areas in the Rocky Mountains or to the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area, a significant area of wilderness and wildlife known as the Serengeti of the North.
Hudson Bay’s Kaska Coast
Autumn is the ideal time to visit Manitoba’s Hudson Bay lowlands, with a strong possibility of seeing Cloud Wolves.
One unique feature of this region is that the Boreal Forest (a forest biome) butts up against the Arctic biome which begins at Hudson Bay, frozen for many months of the year.
The wolf pack’s range encompasses this coastline and also the area’s gorgeous forests and heathlands, which are ablaze with vivid colours in the fall.
Cloud wolves are thought to be a subspecies of Canis Lupus (Grey Wolf), and the pack, which numbers about 13, is named Opoyastin (Big Wind in Cree), that runs alongside the Nanuk Lodge. The lodge in this remote place is only reachable by flying in, with the final leg on a prop plane flight from Churchill or Thompson.
During their stay at Nanuk, guests go out on the icy salt marshes in snowmobiles accompanied by expert guides.
They study the behaviour of the wolves and other forest animals such as fox and moose, using camera traps, collecting scat for forensic review and listening out for wolf howls. Data gathering is critically important when there are no other scientists, researchers, or facilities to speak of in an area. In fact, there are almost no people living in a region twice the size of Switzerland, but it has been home to the Swampy Cree and Moose Cree for at least 6,000 years, who have lived in harmony with nature in this unforgiving land.