Canada is known as America’s nicer, more polite, easy-going sibling. Canadians as a whole are rarely associated with anything remotely aggressive (hockey is an exception), and even less so, with dangerous elements. But all those soft snowy notions vanish when one enters the Canadian wilderness.
There is absolutely no doubt that the great outdoors of Canada are stunning, but within that stunning aesthetic, are also very good reasons for taking caution. The following animals are not friendly to humans and may be prone to attack if they feel threatened or the need to defend their territory or young. Be sure to read this list before venturing out if you are not familiar with the Canadian wilderness.
- Where: Boreal forest from Newfoundland and the Québec-Labrador Peninsula, through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, west to British Columbia and north to the Arctic Ocean in Alaska.
- Danger: Known to charge and collide with motorists.
Even though moose are generally seen as the friendly and furry Canadian mascot, they are actually known to be rather violent when defending themselves. It is because of the assumption that moose are not dangerous that most people get hurt–like entering their territory and not giving them space. These ten-foot creatures are known to not only charge at vehicles but have strong back legs that can easily knock a human down with one swift kick.
- Where: Alberta, British Columbia, Northern Ontario.
- Danger: When cornered, or when prey flees; capable of killing prey much larger than its size.
Canadian Cougars, also known as Mountain Lions, are natural predators, which means preparation when venturing into their territory is key. They are beautiful, majestic looking cats of the wild, but will pursue anything (or anyone) that appears like easy prey. Many people have been killed due to an instinct to flee, which only further entices these felines to chase.
3. Polar Bear
- Where: James Bay to Northern Ellesmere Island (between Ontario and Quebec) from Labrador to the Alaskan Border, as well as Churchhill Manitoba.
- Danger: Large, thus, need a lot of food to be satiated.
Polar bears are not naturally vicious–they are simply strong enough and skilled enough to take on and eat virtually whatever they want. Their bodies are better adapted for the ice and cold then a human, and their sense of smell is far more potent. It is best to respect the boundaries of this spectacular creature and heed warnings of their nearby sightings.
4. Grizzly Bear
- Where: Approminxately 25,000 occupy British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Northern Manitoba.
- Danger: Reacts aggressively when surprised by your presence.
Let’s face it, bears in general, are dangerous. But in the Canadian wilderness, more people are likely to encounter a grizzly bear rather than a polar bear due to campsites mostly existing amongst their natural habitat. Precautions become more extensive when one is camping, and precise rules must be followed to not encourage them to visit your lot. Essentially, most people want both humans and bears to be safe, and thus, not intruded upon.
5. Black Bear
- Where: Within the forests of every province and territory, with the exception of Prince Edward Island.
- Danger: Size is misleading: many people assume they are less dangerous than the grizzly.
Black bears are more common in the Canadian wilderness than any bear on this list. They are known for being shy and easily frightened, and because these traits are associated with their size, can be greatly underestimated. Like all wild animals, their space needs to be respected, and precautions need to be taken. These animals will generally attack when they feel crowded, or when people try to pet or feed them.
6. Grey Wolf
- Where: Labrador, British Columbia, Yukon Territory, Yukon Territories.
- Danger: Hunt in packs; take eye contact as a threat.
Canada is home to over 60,000 wolves, many that are divided amongst two main categories: the grey wolf, and the red wolf. No matter what kind of wolf, it would be best to avoid them through travelling with your own pack, and keeping pets close by. Wolves will also feel threatened if you make eye contact with them, or if you bare your teeth.
- Where: Southern coast of British Columbia, are known to enter Hudson’s and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
- Danger: Only dangerous to humans when threatened or isolated.
There is a reason why orcas are often called “killer whales”. But it is also prudent to remember that even though these magnificent creatures are carnivores, there has not been a single report of a human death in the wild caused by them. They are, however, immensely intelligent, powerful, and should not be underestimated. Orcas are known to attack tiger sharks, even moose who have wandered too close to the shoreline.
8. Black Widow Spider
- Where: The Western Black Widow is found in parts of British Columbia and Manitoba; the Northern Black Widow is found in Northern and Eastern Ontario.
- Danger: Bites can be venomous.
Yes, you read that right. Due to global warming, these generally warmer climate wandering insects have moved the furthest North scientists have ever noted. Thankfully, these eight-legged minions are easily identifiable, with their jet black round plump bottom decorated with two distinctly red triangles.
They bite when they feel threatened, and sometimes don’t even release their venom. But in rare circumstances, should you suffer a venomous bite, no need to panic–most symptoms range from muscle cramps to fatigue. If a younger and more vulnerable individual is bitten, however, it would be best to seek medical attention.
9. Massasauga Rattlesnake
- Where: Ontario: Along the Eastern side of Georgian Bay and the Bruce Peninsula.
- Danger: Walking at dusk while it waits for prey.
Canada’s venomous rattlesnake blends in perfectly with its surroundings, especially at night, as it sinks beneath leaves or underbrush to wait for its rodent prey. These rattlesnakes, like most animals on this list, will only bite when provoked–and will only release its venom 75% of the time. The rattlesnake is quick, agile, and defensive. It would be best to stick to trails when hiking in an area they inhabit, and to generally watch where you are walking.
10. Canada Lynx
Credit: Kevin Pepper Photography
- Where: Northern and Mixed Boreal forests across Canada and Alaska.
- Danger: Making a quiet approach–lies in wait for prey.
These cats make look adorable and remind you of the house cat you grew up with, but make no mistake, more caution must be made. These little-bodied, wild felines prefer to lay in wait for their prey, and are able to quietly creep up due to their immensely padded paws. They are known to eat smaller animals, just as wild hare and birds, but will take down larger animals like caribou if it has been a tough season.