1. Watch for these animals near the Alaska Highway as you drive it
Black Bear – Medium-sized, this is the world’s most common bear
Grizzly Bear – Male grizzlies can weigh 800 lbs and have four-inch front claws
Caribou (Woodland) – These are the largest caribous, and dark in colour
Elk – The second largest member of the deer family
Moose – The largest member of the deer family, even bigger than elk
Mountain Goat – Confident on icy cliffs, also known as Rocky Mountain goat
Mule Deer – Named after mules, which also have big ears
Timber Wolf – The largest wolf is aka “grey” and has bushy winter fur
Wood Bison – The highest point of the 2,000 lb bison is ahead of its front legs
Arctic Ground Squirrel – Locals call them “Parkas” as their fur is used for them
Beaver – A largely nocturnal, semiaquatic rodent takes down trees to build dams
Canada Lynx – Twice the size of a cat, the lynx is silver-brown with tufted ears
Coyote – Abundant in North America, coyotes are timber wolves’ close relatives
Dall Sheep – These sheep stay near extreme terrain to slip predators
Arctic Fox – Aka “white, polar and snow,” it’s brown in summer, white in winter
Snowshoe Hare – Huge back feet keep the hare on top of deep snow
Wolverine – This ferocious, muscular carnivore can kill much larger mammals
2. Saddle up and ride the Muskwa-Kechika ranges
This vast northeastern B.C. territory is named after its two major rivers and has worldwide significance as a massive, “managed” swath of untamed wilderness.
Most travel is by air, water or via a network of horse trails, many of which have been in use since frontier days.
Approximately 2,000 grizzlies call the 6.4 million hectares of the Muskwa-Kechika wilderness home. There are also about 4,000 caribou, 7,000 Stone’s sheep, 15,000 elk, 22,000 moose and thousands of whitetail and mule deer.
Local outfitters provide lodging, guides and transport for a hefty fee, but for a real adventure, grab the reins yourself and ride a horse into your own adventure in a wild and pure, parallel universe.
3. Take a detour to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve (25 minutes outside Whitehorse)
The Yukon Wildlife Preserve Operating Society maintains the preserve’s more than 700 acres and cares for its animals.
There are woodland caribou, Canada lynx, Rocky Mountain elk, mountain goats, Alaska Yukon moose, mule deer, muskoxen, wood bison, two varieties of thinhorn sheep (Dall’s sheep and stone sheep), red foxes and Arctic foxes in habitats suited to each species. The animals have plenty of space and are healthy.
The beautiful site allows for a unique presentation of the wildlife. The remarkably varied landscapes include low-lying flat lands, rolling hills, wetlands and steep rock cliffs.
A bus tour follows a 5 km loop for 75 to 90 minutes. The tour is led by a knowledgeable interpreter who stops the bus and allows everyone to get off, photographing and viewing wildlife whenever visible.
4. Go higher and deeper into the wilderness
Going deep into the BC, Yukon and Alaska wilderness doesn’t necessarily mean roughing it.
Flight-seeing is an increasingly popular activity here, with opportunities via float plane and helicopter to see bears, caribou and other exotic northern mammals in their natural habitat.
At one time floatplanes and bush planes were the only means of transportation in and out of the north.
Today, many operators fly wildlife viewing enthusiasts to locations where sightings of wildlife are almost guaranteed.
Chris Gale – Wild North Photos