Best Time to Visit Canada

Find out the best time to visit Canada, so you get the best bespoke wildlife experiences. Canada is a vast and spectacular wildlife destination and that geographical size and diversity of wildlife, gives it a longer wildlife viewing season than many destinations – especially for the curious and adventurous. It was here, back in 2003, that Wildlife Trails pioneered its ‘3 bears tour’ and made October one of the most spectacular months for bear viewing anywhere in the world – with the chance to see grizzly bears, black bears and polar bears in the same extraordinary 2 week Canada wildlife holiday.

January – Many animal species are still active even after heavy snows in the Canadian provinces, but it definitely pays to be in the capable hands on an expert local naturalist; not only maximize your wildlife encounters, but also ensure your own personal safety and respect for the wildlife you are viewing. On the land in wintertime you may see bald eagles, peregrine falcons, snowy owls, lynx, wolves, marten, sea otter, bighorn sheep, snowshoe hare, cougars, deer and moose. Out on the water, you could see Orcas, other whales species, harbour porpoises, dolphins, harbour seals and sea lions. In the harsh winter months species like Bighorn Sheep will come down to lower altitudes and can sometime be visible by road in the Cariboo Chilcotin.

February – The winter with its ice and snowy conditions in many areas continues and this makes it an ideal time to track some of Canada’s most iconic wildlife, such as Wolverine, Wolf, Lynx and Moose. Due to the shyness of such specialised and camouflaged predators, many of the sightings will be through binoculars or scopes, but by walking through their winter habitat and understanding their home range and prey species, you will obtain a deeper connection and respect for these amazing animals. From the comfort of a warm Canada wilderness lodge, you will don snowshoes and venture deep into the Cariboo Mountains Provincial Park in search of these mountain ghosts.

March – Something interesting is happens in the waters of the Pacific off the western coast of Vancouver Island. This is the annual migration of Gray Whales from Mexico to Alaska and what is most exciting of all, is that some of the whales love this area so much, they actually stop their migration and stay for the rest of the year. There is also something very special happening at Radium Hot Springs, thanks to its wetland, valley, and canyon setting at the base of the Rockies. A herd of 100 plus bighorn sheep are permanent residents, often trotting through town and around the visitor centre from March until early June. Most people would think this is not the best time to see bears in Canada and mainly they would be right, but by the end of the month, some black bears with their cubs may be leaving their dens around Whistler and north Thompson valley.

April – Black bears on Vancouver island will definitely be on the move and although they may mainly stay in the forests looking for the years first ripening berries, it is not unusual to see them on the rocky shorelines, turning overs rocks with their dextrous paws, as they search for mussels and other crustaceans. If you take a small boat whale watching tour out of Tofino or Ucluelet at this time of year, you may have the bonus of spotting a bear. Why not head to northern BC, for the path less travelled and to see some of its amazing scenery and wildlife. You can see herds of caribou and bison right from the highway in remote parts of the north, in addition to moose and deer, mountain goats and Dall’s sheep. The little visited Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary is becoming more well known and it is very exciting to travel by boat or floatplane into the sanctuary to see the first grizzly bears emerging from their dens

May – In our eyes, one of the best months for bear viewing in British Colombia, as in recent years what they call the ‘spring bear viewing’ season, has outperformed the autumn season, due to reduced returning runs of salmon. If you are lucky with the spring weather, you are going to enjoy some amazing marine and terrestrial wildlife and still with low visitor numbers in places like Vancouver Island, or the stunning Bella Coola valley. Small boat safaris, sometimes in skiffs gently pushed by your guides, will allow you to see grizzly bears with spring cubs feeding on succulent sedge grasses. The inlets you will navigate to reach these meadows, contain populations of Orcas, Humpbacks, Dolphins and Porpoises.

June – June shares a lot of the characteristics of late May and is another fantastic month to plan your Canada wildlife holiday. The peak tourist months of July and August are still a month away and you may be able to get a good deal on your international flights. Western BC remains a favoured location for wildlife lovers, but something very special is being witnessed in the High Arctic. Wildlife Trails have been exploring the province of Nunavut for nearly 20 years and have put together highly specialised wildlife boat safaris or ice floe edge trips, off Baffin Island and Igloolik for our clients. The Floe Edge is the magical border between the sea ice and open ocean. It is an area where arctic mammals and birds congregate. From your expedition style comfortable basecamps, you will have the chance to see Narwhal, Belugas, Bowhead Whales and Polar Bears prowling the edges of the ice for food.

July – Grizzly bear activity can drop off a little in July as the heat builds and the main salmon runs have not yet started. Some bears may head to the cooling woods, but they can still be seen in the river estuaries in various inlets off the BC coast. This month is one of the best months to go whale watching in Vancouver Island and in particular Johnstone strait, where the most studies pods of Orcas in the world come to feed on the salmon gathering offshore. There is also another famous whale gathering happening in the province of Manitoba and specifically in the shallow waters off the coast of Hudson Bay.

August – This is a famous month on the west coast of Canada, as it is synonymous with the salmon run being in full swing and attracting huge numbers of bears fishing for salmon in the many famous river and inlets of the west coast. Knight Inlet is world famous for grizzly bear viewing and we send our clients to an intimate and stunningly located Canada wilderness lodge, to see both grizzly bear from the viewing stands and Orcas in the world famous Johnstone strait. This is also an amazing time to head to the Great Bear Rainforest for the quest to see the mythical, Spirit Bear. Although otherwise identical in biology and behaviour to other black bears, there is scientific evidence to suggest that spirit bears have some inherent advantages due to their otherwise very conspicuous colouration. Studies have shown that spirit bears have a greater degree of success catching salmon in broad daylight than their black brethren

September – ‘It’s so quiet in here’ and that seems a pretty good reason to be considering a Canada wildlife holiday in September? At Wildlife Trails we now have nearly 20 years of date from returning clients about the best months for bear viewing in Canada and it is now clear that the peak salmon runs of late August have ‘drifted’ into September and with warm temperatures, fewer tourists and superb black and brown bear viewing on the rivers, this is indeed the best time to see bears on Vancouver Island. It is not just the bears who are catching the salmon rushing upstream, a diversity of predators such as wolves, bald eagles, otters and even wolverine are catching them.

October – Wildlife Trails was founded by a biologist and a lot of scientific planning goes into the design of our bespoke Canada wildlife holidays. So, we knew that grizzly bears were catching salmon later in the season and our clients were having amazing encounters with bears in the first 2 weeks of October. Yes, it is true to say that the weather will be cooler and some big storms can arrive by mid-October, but if we organised the grizzly bear safari in Bella Coola or Vancouver Island in the first week of the month, it opens up the amazing opportunity to see Polar Bear in Churchill, Manitoba in the early season. Combine that with seeing black bears, humpback whales and Gray whales out of Tofino and you have our signature ‘3 bears’ Canada wildlife tour that we pioneered. We have also added to this, the chance to see black bears and bison in Riding Mountain national park.

November – Because Wildlife Trails is all about tailor-made wildlife safaris and looking for that perfect window to enjoy extraordinary wildlife encounters, we are often the trailblazers in finding affordable Canada wildlife holidays which occur in peak season. Our polar bear safaris at Churchill in early November are a prime example of this approach. With good advance planning, we are able to secure accommodation in the first 2 weeks of November, which is often when polar bear numbers double in the town as they wait for the ice to form on the vast Hudson Bay. The end of October and early November; incredibly see the ‘ice bears’ of Yukon defy nature and the elements to feast on chum salmon before climbing into the snowy mountains to den.

December – Yes, winter has arrived in full effect, but there are still a few specialist wildlife viewing tours you can enjoy in this season. Seeing large numbers of Bald Eagles on migration is one such Canada wildlife tour. The Eagle Run viewing shelter near Squamish, north of Vancouver city, is one of the prime locations. Or, from November until February, take a guided eagle float tour down the Squamish and Mamquam rivers. Another location just 90 minutes east of Vancouver is the Fraser Valley, the pretty town of Harrison Mills is home to the largest gathering of wintering eagles in the world.

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