Canada has a rich wilderness heritage. The country’s remote northern region and vast forests are home to various species of wildlife such as bears, wolves, deer and mountain lions. Canada’s lakes and rivers, which are home to a number of species of fish, contain nearly 20 percent of all the fresh water on the earth. In the south lie the prairies, which are the habitat of animals such as bison and pronghorn antelope.The sprawling forests further north also have wildlife such as moose and black bears. As one goes even further north, there is the bare tundra region, which is home to caribou and musk ox. Canada makes a big effort to protect and preserve its native wildlife. There are 42 national parks in the country and three marine conservation regions. Despite these efforts, a great number of animals such as lynx, wolves, and Atlantic fish are being hunted.
A trip to the Canadian wilderness offers the exciting opportunity to explore nearly 10 million square kilometers of spectacular landscapes that stretch from coast to coast. The wilderness is ideal for nature-lovers and those who enjoy an adventure. Along with breathtaking views, Canada’s stunning wilderness also offers the chance to get closer to its impressive wildlife. Every year, thousands of visitors flock to the country’s wilderness.
Canada’s national parks are the best place to experience the wilderness. It is an ideal place to lose yourself in natural wonders. But a trip to the wilderness requires preparation. Whether your journey lasts for a few hours or a few days, you need to have the right kind of clothing and supplies, including a detailed map of the area you are visiting. It is also important to go on hikes that match your ability and level of experience. You can do some research on your chosen route, or better still, ask locals for advice. Inform someone about your plans, the area you are visiting and when you are likely to be back. A detailed plan is helpful in this regard. But also be prepared for changing conditions. Hiking is ideal during spring and summer, but conditions such as snowmelt or newly built beaver dams can bring your hike to a halt.
This doesn’t mean that you have to abandon the plan; a detour off your route can help you continue your journey. If you have a local guide with you, detours to adapt to the changing conditions are much easier. If you are lost, the best idea is to stay in place, as any direction you take may lead you further off the path and it will also take longer for rescuers to find you.
Instead, stay put and have something to drink or eat while you absorb your beautiful surroundings. It is important to keep yourself hydrated and stay visible for the rescuers to find you.
Here are five of the best wilderness experiences.
White water rafting – Ottawa River
The Ottawa River is a popular site for rafting and kayaking. Different sites of varying difficulty levels exist, and thus cater to people of varying experience and age. White water rafting involves navigating the fast-moving waters of the Ottawa River in an inflatable raft.
Trekking – Tombstone Mountain Range, Yukon
A trek on the Tombstone Mountain Range of the Yukon is like stepping back in time. The place is home to species of animals and plants that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Named after one of the mountains that looks like a tombstone, both in shape and color, these rugged peaks offer a challenge as you trek along lichen-covered slopes. Plan this trip during late August, as this is when the boreal forest and alpine meadows merge to create a range of fall colors. However, even at this time, it is important to go prepared for colder temperatures.
Dog sledding – Yukon
Enjoy the spectacular scenery as you ride on a blanket-lined dogsled pulled by beautiful Siberian Huskies through the Yukon. Remember to wear warm clothing to protect against the sub-zero temperatures of the Yukon. Before setting off, you can assist in harnessing the huskies and hooking them to the sled. The gentle ride is a great way to take in the majesty of the Yukon. A half-day tour usually includes a snack and a warm beverage, while full day tours include a hearty lunch.
Fishing – Kluane Lake
The Kluane Lake is referred to as ‘Trophy Lake’, as this is where you can find Trophy Fish. Lake Trouts found in these waters are up to 40 pounds. The icy waters are also home to White Fish and Northern Pike, among other species of fish. The best time to go fishing is in mid-June, when the fishing season begins. For the rest of the year, the Kluane Lake is frozen, and it is only in May that the lake starts thawing.
Stay at a Mountain Lodge – Bella Coola Valley
This sounds like a cozy getaway, but actually you will be surrounded by grizzly bears. Black bears, wolves, cougars, mountain goats and deer also populate the Bella Coola Valley. Above, one can spot bald eagles soaring across the sky.
Canadians live in harmony with animal inhabitants for the most part. But in the wilderness it is possible for a violent encounter to occur. Having some knowledge about the country’s animal population and what to do if you encounter them can increase your chances of survival.
Cougars are among the most dangerous animals in Canada. The highest number of attacks tend to occur in British Columbia. Cougars are usually seen around November, and tend to keep moving to different territories. Cougars stalk their prey and start charging at a fast pace. Children, on account of their smaller size, are especially vulnerable to attacks. Playing dead doesn’t seem to be effective when dealing with cougars, so the best way to handle an encounter is to make yourself look big and fight back.
The wilderness is home of animals such as grizzlies and black bears. Humans are the intruders here, so it is not surprising to see these animals roaming freely. Bears may be spotted on the roads too. Both grizzly bears and black bears are dangerous. In fact the black bear is rated as one of the most dangerous creatures in Canada. If you come across a bear, avoid surprising them. Travel in groups and make noise, but refrain from crowding the bear. Also do not approach a bear to take pictures, instead use a zoom lens.
Polar bears live in the north, so it is possible to encounter one when travelling in the wilderness. The sad reality is that since the ice caps where polar bears hunt seal are melting, they have started moving towards human civilization. However, attacks by polar bears are rare. Polar bears usually inhabit areas such as James Bay, Ellesmere Island, Labrador and Churchill Manitoba.
Attacks on humans by wolves are rare, but they can still behave aggressively if they perceive a threat. The Eastern wolf and the Arctic wolf live in Canada. Wolves usually live and move in packs of three to seven, with a dominant male and a breeding female. They tend to hunt hares, badgers, squirrels, weasels and foxes. Since all of these can outrun them, wolves tend to hunt in packs.
Moose are also among the most dangerous animals in Canada. Moose and vehicle collisions are common in Labrador and Newfoundland. They are known to charge when they perceive threats. In addition to using their antlers, they can also kick hard to cause harm to humans.
Since elk are so common in the Canadian wilderness, it is easy to forget that they pose a threat. They weigh almost half a ton and are among the largest animals in North America. Therefore it is important to avoid approaching elk. Male elk rend to be especially dangerous during the mating season in late summer, while females can act aggressively during the calving season in spring.
Wolverines are fierce and aggressive animals with imposing long claws and strong neck and shoulder muscles, which enable them to eat frozen animal meat; something they need to do in order to survive during the winters. But since they are scavengers, they rarely come close to humans.
Many of Canada’s poisonous snakes are at risk due to destruction of their natural habitat. Found in British Columbia, the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake can strike if they are disturbed. Their bites are not usually fatal, but it is still necessary to be careful around these snakes. The Massasauga Rattlesnake inhabits the Georgian Bay region of Ontario, and is usually found near water. They are not aggressive snakes, but can coil and strike when they feel threatened. The Desert Night Snake lives in a small part of the southern region of British Columbia. Humans rarely spot them, but one needs to be cautious, as their saliva is toxic.
Serious spider bites are not common in Canada, although many species of spiders in Canada are venomous. The one that poses the most risk is the black widow spider, which inhabits areas in Manitoba, Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia. These spiders avoid humans, but the bite from a female spider can lead to various unpleasant effects such as nausea, dizziness, swelling, muscle pain and tremors. If the bite is left untreated, it can turn fatal.
Mosquitoes in Canada can be carriers of the West Nile virus, which this makes them quite deadly. Infection by the virus may either lead to no symptoms, or symptoms of the flu. It can turn so serious that hospitalization is required.
If you’re all set to embark on a Canadian wilderness adventure, you need to know these survival tips.
Emotions do not usually play a big role in our day-to-day survival, but once you find yourself in a difficult situation, emotions such as panic and disorientation can significantly affect your survival. While panic is a natural emotion, it is important to know in advance that staying calm and staying put is the best way to survive. Panicking may cause you to try to find your way back where you started your trek, but the disorientation may cause you to get more lost. When you find yourself off the path, stay in a spot that will enable rescuers to find you.
Some of the necessary tools to take with you when exploring the Canadian wilderness include waterproof matches and a lighter. This is a good survival tip even if you are not staying the night. The smoke can send a signal to rescuers about your location, and will also help to ward off animals. Fire also helps you stay warm and cook the food you brought along.
Camping trips as well as day trips require you to bring along small amounts of food. It is possible to survive with less food for days, but it can cause you to grow fatigued. Food helps you keep your strength up and also helps you stay alert. If you find yourself in a survival situation without any food, you will need to know what is edible in the area you are in. Water is also important as the body needs it much more than food for survival. If you don’t have water with you, you need to find clean water near you. The water from Canadian rivers is known to be drinkable, but it is still better to boil the water or strain is through a cloth to filter out impurities or contamination.
Most people usually do not pack a tent if they are on a day trip. But carrying along a blanket will help in a survival situation. You can also look for a tree under which you can stay dry. It is even possible to build a makeshift tent using branches and vines. The simplest shelter to make is a lean-to. An A-frame shelter is also easy to make using branches and grass.