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How to discover Canada’s bear essentials

June 8, 2021 Canadian News No Comments
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Rise and shine! The grizzly and black bears of Canada have emerged from hibernation. Ask any Aussie traveller what they love most about Canada’s vast wilderness and many will wax lyrical about that mesmerising moment when they spotted a bear (or three) roaming freely in the wild. Watch a short video of Canada’s grizzly, black and polar bears HERE.

Bearing witness to these awesome beasts in their natural habitat is an unforgettable, humbling moment, with Australians eager to experience it for themselves when the time is right to travel again.

From grizzlies, black bears and spirit bears, to the polar bears of the Arctic, there’s no shortage of bear watching experiences on offer. Read on for some of the best destinations to view Canadian bears from a safe distance.

Grizzlies and black bears

Take a serene ride above Banff National Park on the Lake Louise Gondola. This spectacular bird’s-eye view offers the perfect vantage point for bear spotting below, not to mention equally mind-blowing views of Lake Louise and the peaks of the Great Divide. Further bear spotting opportunities await at the top, with hiking trails and guided hikes available.

The 10-minute open-air Banff Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift in Alberta takes you above the clouds to a sightseeing walkway, offering panoramic views of the Spray and Bow Valleys, majestic Mt. Rundle and the town of Banff. Keep the camera poised for grizzly bears who traverse the slopes of Mt Norquay in abundance, seeking safe habitats for feeding and rearing their young.

Yukon Territory, in Canada’s north-west, is home to thousands of grizzlies and black bears. These honey-drunk beasts are a huge attraction, often seen ambling along the tree lines of Yukon’s epic Alaska and Dempster Highways. While it’s not advised that you deliberately seek out the bears, road trippers and hikers are in with a good chance of witnessing a bear in the wild and it’s recommended you follow bear safety guidelines at all times.

The Khutzeymateen/K’tzim-a-deen Grizzly Sanctuary, British Columbia, 45 kilometres northeast of Prince Rupert, was the first area in Canada to be protected specifically for grizzly bears, and is one of the best places in the world to see these magnificent animals in their natural habitat. Accessible only by boat and/or floatplane, the site is home to roughly 60 individual bears, best visited between May and September when the bears can be seen roaming the shore.

Grouse Mountain Wildlife Refuge, just 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver, is home to orphaned and endangered grizzly bears and other wildlife. Come early for Breakfast with the Bears to witness gorgeous grizzlies, Grinder and Coola, exploring their habitat, and learn about bear conservation from a ranger during a bear feeding. Afterwards, head to Grizzly Lookout Café for a beary (ahem) delicious breakfast.

Spirit Bears

The magical Princess Royal Island in the Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia is not only home to a healthy population of grizzlies, but also the rare Kermode (Spirit) bear, a sub-species of black bear found only in this part of the world carrying a recessive gene that gives them a naturally white coat. Companies operated by the local Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nations people in the nearby village of Klemtu offer tours to view the bears, while two floating lodges in the vicinity, Knight Inlet Lodge and Great Bear Lodge, also offer grizzly bear-viewing tours from spring through autumn.

Polar Bears

It’s one thing to see a polar bear on video; it’s an entirely different, life-changing experience to see one in person. Immerse yourself in the awesome beauty of the Arctic landscapes of Churchill, Manitoba and the far-north territory of Nunavut and feel that sharp quiver of excitement as you stand in proximity to the mighty polar bear.

You will find polar bears throughout Nunavut, as all but one of Nunavut’s communities are located by the ocean. The best time to see them is in autumn, as they gather on the shorelines waiting for sea ice to form.

In Churchill, Manitoba, travel by land is probably the most common way to see the lords of the Arctic. Climb aboard one of these all-terrain vehicles that stand over 13 feet tall and you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world. Even the average adult polar bear standing at almost three metres high will have nothing on you. Check out: Frontiers North, Lazy Bear Expeditions, Great White Bear Tours

Alternatively, a smaller scale, open-air, low-impact tundra vehicle, called a ‘rhino’ works well to navigate the boggy lowlands and tidal flats and gets you closer to your goal of seeing bears.

Churchill is the only place in the world that offers a walking tour. Get ready for the adrenaline rush of your life as you witness the apex predator of the Arctic sans barriers. These guided ambles are as good as it gets for getting you so close to these fantastic beasts yet with the safety net of experienced guides having your back along the way.

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