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How to see all 3 species of bears in Canada in the one ultimate Canada wildlife holiday

Posted in: Canada, Posted in: Bear Safari Canada


Best Canada wildlife holidays

How to see all 3 species of Canadian bears in the same trip?

Way back in 2003 when we were planning a 6-week recce of Canada to launch our new Canada bear watching holidays, we quickly realised that there was a very special opportunity to see all 3 species of Canada bears in the same wildlife holiday. Yes, the bear viewing window was short and it would not mean being there at ‘peak time’ for all 3 species of bears; but nevertheless, the chance of seeing them during the same Canada bear safari was irresistible and we threw ourselves into this unique and ground breaking Canada wildlife tour. The first thing we needed to do was look individually at the distribution and behaviour of black bears, brown (or grizzly) bears and polar bears in Canada and see how we could pull together the ultimate Canada wildlife holiday.

Best place to see grizzly bears in Canada?

Canada is such a vast country that thankfully wildlife such as the magnificent grizzly bear has not been pushed to the margins and despite hunting, forestry and salmon farms interfering with wild salmon stocks; their numbers still remain high in many parts of Canada – in particular, the west coast of British Colombia. We focused on three main areas for our nature holidays in Canada which provided visitors with the chance to see brown bears. These were the inlets between Vancouver Island and the west coasts; such as Knight Inlet and Bute Inlet. The magnificent Bella Coola valley further in the interior of BC and finally the Khutzeymateen grizzly bear sanctuary. All three locations can be considered to be some of the best places to see grizzly bears in Canada, but for the salmon run, we found that Knight Inlet, Bute inlet and the Bella Coola valley were better. This is a very important point about the timing of a ‘3 bears’ tour; you need to be seeing the grizzly bears late in the autumn season feeding on salmon, so you don’t arrive too early in Churchill for the polar bears.

Best place to see back bears in Canada?

Black Bears outnumber brown bears in Canada by around 25:1, so it is not surprising that you are much more likely to see a black bear in Canada than a grizzly. They are also to a degree, more comfortable living in close proximity to humans and that is why you see videos of black bears rummaging through bins in mountain communities such as Whistler. However, we prefer a more natural black bear safari like our black bear tour in Tofino, or out of the coastal community of Zeballos. Often these bears can be found feeding on crustaceans on the shoreline, or like their larger relative, feeding on spawning salmon in the rivers and estuaries. It is not uncommon to see a black bear as you take a grizzly bear tour on Vancouver Island; where you will depart from Campbell River or Telegraph Cove and head over to Knight or Bute inlet.

Best place to see Polar Bears in Canada?

Our first polar bear viewing holiday in Canada was on the southern tip of Baffin Island, as we looked for a more adventurous polar bear safari high in the Canadian Arctic. However, as magical as it is to be in the High Arctic, it is not the best place to see polar bears in Canada. That particular title goes to Churchill, an isolated town in northern Manitoba.

Although quite southerly, due to its unique geography and geology, and the prevailing ocean currents, Churchill is the first place where winter sea ice forms in Hudson Bay. This is turn attracts Polar Bears from hundreds of miles around eagerly awaiting the first ice so that they can head offshore as soon as possible to spend the winter hunting seals out on the ice floes. The bears begin to congregate close to the shoreline to the east of Churchill at the beginning of October, and their numbers swell as the month progresses and on into November. When the ice finally comes, usually in mid to late November, there is an overnight mass exodus and the bears aren’t seen again to the following June when the ice breaks up again.

So, although early season Churchill polar bear tours in the first 2 weeks of October are not the best time to see polar bears; they allow us to construct our signature ‘3 bears’ tour because with warmer global temperatures, it is common now to see grizzly bears feeding on salmon well into October. If this trend continues we might be seeing brown bears until the end of October and beyond! However, for the moment we plan this 2-week tour in the last few days of September and the first 2 weeks of October, which provides us with the ultimate Canada bear viewing holiday that covers all 3 species of bear.

If you are excited about our 3 bears tours and want to see a more detailed itinerary then click on our grizzly bear tour of Vancouver Island with Churchill extension and then email us to check availability.

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