The Top 10 Most Dangerous Animals in Canada
For those who have spent much time north of the border, it’s clear Canada is a far different world than the U.S. It is more than just poutine, hockey, and maple syrup though. The country is home to vast stretches of wilderness that only Alaskans can truly relate to. Canada is considerably larger than the United States but with a population that is only equal to that of California. Factor in that 90% of Canada’s 35 plus million inhabitants reside within 100 miles of the U.S. border and you are starting to see the picture.
The far north lies mostly above the arctic circle and while it’s 39% of Canada’s land mass, it only has 1% of the country’s population. Below that lies the vast boreal forests referred to colloquially as the near north. These boreal forests are the ancestral home to the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people who helped establish the mighty fur trade wielded by the storied Hudson Bay Company. Historically, this sizable tract was never widely settled by Europeans and remains sparsely populated to this day.
In much of this rustic expanse, wild and dangerous animals roam unfettered by man’s modest footprint. A trip into the backcountry of Canada can be both exhilarating and breathtaking, but must be approached with caution and a healthy respect for mother nature. Spotting an exotic wild animal from a safe distance can be a remarkable experience, however, a surprise encounter along the trail with one these beasts could be potentially deadly. Here is The Advocates’ list of the 10 Most Dangerous Animals of Canada.
Most Dangerous Animals in Canada #10: Mosquitoes
The lowly mosquito doesn’t usually strike fear into the hearts of intrepid explorers. However, what these pernicious pests lack in size, they more than make up for in raw numbers. Their global war of attrition against humans has racked up quite a body count. West Nile virus, malaria, or dengue and yellow fever are just some of their favorite dance hits. Upwards of two million people a year die as a result of disease or complications from mosquito bites.
Parts of Canada are notorious for the pesky winged nuisance. The town of Komarno in Manitoba boasts a 15’ high statue of the mosquito in downtown. Fitting, as its name means “mosquito infested” in Ukrainian. Huge thick clouds frequently menace the population there. Residents of British Columbia say the pests are ruining the quality of life and have used the word apocalypse to describe conditions that make them prisoners in their own home. They report having to dress head to toe like it’s winter or the beasts will just bite you through jeans. Lucie, a recent traveler to Pukaskwa National Park in Ontario said it was so bad they could not get a single picture of the park as clouds of the pests mucked up the lenses to the cameras. She counted 42 bites on one ankle and 6 bites on one eyelid before fleeing the area. No amount of bug spray can save you from this kind of horde!
Most Dangerous Animals in Canada #9: Wolverines
The wolverine has a nasty reputation as a tenacious and fierce fighter, especially if defending its den. Possessing large sharp claws and a powerful bite allows it to not only burrow, but also to tear apart frozen meat in the winter months. Although relatively modest in size at around 40 pounds, it can hunt and kill animals 10 times its size. They are known for boldly standing up to even a bear or mountain lion when defending a kill. Good thing for us these scavengers are too reclusive to have much contact with humans.
Most Dangerous Animals in Canada #8: Rattlesnakes
Canada’s cold weather means only the heartiest venomous snakes live north of the border, as they prefer a much warmer climate. The Massasauga Rattler can be found in Ontario and is gray with large black or brown spots. This relatively modest-sized snake of a little over 2-ft senses its prey with their special heat-sensitive pits between their eyes. This rattler, if surprised, can deliver a large dose of venom that has occasionally proven to be fatal. In British Columbia they have the western rattlesnake with its distinctive triangular head. These larger snakes of up to 5-ft can be considerably more aggressive than their Ontario counterparts and are also able to deliver a potentially lethal dose of venom. In Alberta and Saskatchewan, we have the prairie rattlesnake which is similar in size to its western cousin but whose venom is not quite as dangerous.
Most Dangerous Animals in Canada #7: Wolves
Unlike the United States, where wolves have been hunted to the brink of extinction, in Canada they still flourish in about 90% of their original habitat. In most areas, they are a game animal and can be hunted with license and tag during the winter months from September to March. Although, hunting these crafty and elusive animals is difficult even for experienced parties.
Typically, wolf packs have six to eight members and only the alpha male and female are allowed to breed, while the others protect and feed the pups. When working together the wolf-pack is one of the most lethal and efficient predators in all of nature. While one lone wolf would not pose a huge threat to a healthy adult human, facing down a wolf pack alone could prove a daunting task. Wolves are smart enough to possess a healthy fear of humans and usually maintain a safe distance. So, if you’re out camping and hear that howl at night, don’t worry. You’re probably safe, but you may want to stick close to camp.
Most Dangerous Animals in Canada #6: Cougars or Mountain Lions
Mostly native to the western side of Canada, the cougar’s natural habitat stretches from the Yukon all the way down to the Andes in South America. The cougar is second in size to only the jaguar in the Americas. While the cougar is largely solitary and prefers to operate during twilight and nocturnally, daytime sightings have been reported. The cougar is a close relative to the modern house cat and is known to purr amongst themselves. Cougars cannot roar like big cats, but instead chirp, whistle, and make a loud screeching, scream-like noise that is sometimes mistaken for another animal or even humans.
These large felines do not like to chase prey. They prefer to wait patiently and ambush their prey, frequently targeting the throat where they latch on in order to suffocate their victims. These large felines weigh in at around 220 pounds and can leap 40’. Estimates are that around 4,000 of these reclusive cats reside in Canada. A large majority live in British Columbia and Vancouver Island has the most concentrated cougar population in the world with 800 living on the small island. If you are hiking in the area, use the buddy system and take the safety tips for cougar country seriously. Such advice could save your life.
Most Dangerous Animals in Canada #5: Black Bears
The North American black bear makes its home across Canada and can be found in every province and territory save for Prince Edward Island. Although the vast majority are jet black, in fact they range in color from blond to light or dark brown, with variations and mixtures of colors. Bluish-tinged bears live in the St. Elias mountains and white or cream-colored varieties inhabit some of the coastal islands.
While for the most part, these shy and inquisitive creatures are vegetarians, make no mistake they can be extremely dangerous if provoked or surprised. Attacks on humans remain relatively rare although individual bears who become accustomed to human contact can become a problem. When traveling or camping in bear country be mindful of the safety regulations especially regarding food storage and proper handling of trash. As a grim reminder of how vicious a black bear attack can be, tragedy struck recently when a woman was attacked and killed while her 9-year old son watched in horror from inside the cabin. This was the first fatal bear attack in Saskatchewan since the early 1980s.
Most Dangerous Animals in Canada #4: Elk
Although not as huge as their cousin the moose, elk can weigh up to half a ton and pack a serious wallop. Males grow large antlers seasonally and are not afraid to use them. They may look relatively peaceful like a deer but are quite aggressive and may attack without warning. They are known to have zero tolerance for being approached or molested by humans. During the fall mating season, their behavior is especially belligerent. Parks like Banff caution people to never approach closer than 100’ to an elk for any reason no matter the time of year and if you come across a small herd, stay in your car and take pictures.
Should the unthinkable happen and you find yourself being charged by an elk do not stand your ground, do not play dead, and do not try to fight back. Run and try and get to a tree or another obstacle between you and the charging beast. Hopefully, you can stall long enough that the elk will lose interest, allowing you to safely slink off.
Most Dangerous Animals in Canada #3: Moose
A bull moose with a full set of antlers is easily one of the most imposing figures around. An adult male can weigh up to 1,500 pounds, stand taller at the shoulders than any horse, and have antlers 6-feet wide. The largest of the deer family possesses no fear of humans and are known to be ill-tempered and unpredictable if provoked or approached. This is especially true during mating season from late September through mid-October.
Stumbling across a moose while hiking can be precarious, but the real danger from moose are when you are behind the wheel of a car. A moose may just stand its ground on the roadway or perhaps even charge an oncoming vehicle, potentially causing a car accident. They are difficult to spot with their dark fur and they stand so tall that the eyes do not reflect headlights the way a deer’s do at night. Common at dusk and dawn, keep an eye out for these giants of the forests especially during mating season. Accidents with a moose are 13 times more likely to result in a fatality than a crash with a deer.
Most Dangerous Animals in Canada #2: Grizzly Bears
The fearsome grizzly bear needs no introduction. It’s legend stretches across the west and up into Canada and Alaska. Also known as the brown bear when living in coastal areas, this mammoth omnivore is easily one of the most ferocious land mammals in all North America. Adult males typically weigh more than 800 pounds and grow to 6 ½ feet, although unusually large specimens have been recorded as large as 1,500 pounds.
Grizzly bears have no fear of man, and with razor sharp teeth, 4-inch claws, and a nasty disposition, this fearsome predator is a nightmare if stumbled upon while hiking. Unlike the shy black bear, the grizzly is likely to view humans as food and may attack without warning if nearby. Attacks on humans are fortunately rare as they can end morbidly with victims being killed and partially eaten.
Most Dangerous Animals in Canada #1: Polar Bears
Canada’s far north is home to two-thirds of the world’s polar bear population. These gigantic denizens of the ice are the largest animal in the bear family, can weigh 2,000 pounds, and grow to 12-feet in length. Unlike the other bears on this list, polar bears almost exclusively eat meat, making them a hypercarnivore. Living primarily above the arctic circle means that contact with humans is unusual and attacks exceedingly rare.
Although slightly larger than its grizzly cousin, the polar bear does not share the grizzly’s notoriously unpleasant disposition. Hardly what one might call friendly though, these skilled and intelligent hunters have been known to stalk humans as prey. In a recent attack on an Inuit man, the polar bear pounced on his chest breaking his ribs. Miraculously, the man survived, but did require over 300 stitches to re-attach his scalp. Luckily, if you’ve got a hankering to see this incredible animal there are several professional outdoor tour guides who cater to the polar bear enthusiast.
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