The Yukon has a lot of notable names on the must-see wildlife list. Moose, elk, caribou and grizzlies are some of the more obvious A-listers. But there are plenty more to see, like mountain bluebirds, porcupines, red foxes and kokanee salmon, to name a few. As with celebrity spotting in the city, your best chance for an animal encounter in the wild comes with a good strategy in your back pocket.
Know the hot spots
If you want to spot the most famous animals in the Yukon, it’s best to know where they hang out. Boreal forests, south-facing slopes, open alpine areas, and natural water sources are all prime areas for animal viewing. Road trippers are bound to have plenty of sightings right along the highway of their chosen driving routes—and well done. You’ll have a front-row seat to the wildest show in town.
Hans G Pfaff
Other hot spots are the wildlife preserves and parks where you’ll find a plethora of Yukon’s most famous furry locals in places like Kluane National Park and Reserve, the area surrounding the Thechàl Dhâl Visitor Centre, and in Tombstone Territorial Park. Even if you don’t see a single animal (which is unlikely), the backdrop will be enough to keep your jaw dropped. And if guaranteed sightings are what you’re after, including endangered animals, you can’t miss at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve in Whitehorse.
A lesser known fact about the Yukon—the wild things won’t seek you out. Sure, you could wander the Yukon streets, hoping for a moose to cross your path. Or, you could take the approach of the pros. (In fact many of them offer wilderness tours and will guide you themselves!) But even if you prefer to travel solo, you can still follow their lead. Try getting off the main highway corridor. After all, wildlife prefers—you guessed it—the wilderness.
Once you’re off the beaten path, be patient and take your time. If you’re in bear country, make noise as you travel so as not to surprise any four-legged Yukoners out for a stroll. Remember, you’re in their territory so don’t linger. Just stop, look and leave. Don’t forget to pack your bear spray, binoculars and bragging rights. After all, animal sighting or not, you’re walking where the wild things are. And that’s pretty darn cool.
Nobody likes a wilderness crasher. So if you want a warm reception, follow a couple simple rules of etiquette. First, enjoy wildlife from a distance. Not getting too close isn’t just for your safety. It also ensures the animals don’t become habituated to humans. Second, a little respect goes a long way in the wild.
If you have pets, keep them on a leash. If you head out on a hike, stay on marked trails. If you plan on camping, always pack out your garbage and learn how to bear-proof your food storage (keeping in mind that different rules apply for campgrounds and backcountry camping). Remember, these are wild creatures who need to stay that way. Enjoy the view from a distance, and keep the Yukon wild.