Winter is a fantastic time to view wildlife in Riding Mountain National Park. From the majestic moose to the shy lynx, we are one of the premier wildlife viewing destinations in Manitoba! Here’s our list of the top ten wildlife you can spot in RMNP:
Moose – An enduring symbol of the Canadian outdoors, moose are plentiful in RMNP. They can often be spotted along highway 10, particularly in the Moon Lake area, during the fall and winter months. The park moose population is estimated at 3000 animals.
Wolves – The wolf population in RMNP is estimated to be between 70-100 individuals. While the mere mention of wolves can strike fear into the hearts of many, these creatures fear and actively avoid humans, which makes the sighting of a wolf that much more of an exciting experience. You are more likely to find tracks, rather than the wolves themselves, with Highway 19 and the Lake Audy area the best places to search for them.
Lynx – are well-adapted to our intense winters. They have large, rounded feet and are able to spread their toes in soft snow for a snowshoe-like effect. The best place to spot a lynx is along Highway 19, where their favourite food – hares – are also abundant.
Elk – While elk can be found throughout #RidingNP, they spend much of their time in the aspen and mixed wood forests, which are the best places to spot these animals in the Park. The elk population in RMNP is currently steady, estimated at 1800 animals.
Great Gray Owl – Manitoba’s Provincial Bird is one of the few daytime hunting owls and they are easy to spot, often seen on highway 10 between Wasagaming and the Clear Lake Golf Course. They have remarkable hunting skills, using their excellent hearing to locate and capture prey as deep as 45 cm beneath the snow. Keep an eye out for their distinctive plunge marks in the snow.
Fox - Foxes are regularly spotted around the townsite of Wasagaming, where they are very used to seeing humans.
Ravens – Look up, look way up. Ravens are the Park’s most conspicuous wintering birds. When every other bird has left for warmer areas, ravens, along with about another 3 dozen species, stick out the long cold winter. They feed on leftovers from kills made by wolves and coyotes, so if you see a group of ravens, they may be pointing the way to a kill!
Gray Jays – Another favourite winter bird is the Gray Jay. While they are year-round residents, they are more noticeable in the winter season. These jays are wonderfully adapted to the winter, and because they nest in the late winter, they store food all winter long in small balls which they will then retrieve to feed their young.
Fishers and Pine Martens – These two members of the weasel family were reintroduced into the Park just over 20 years ago, and they seem to like it here! Fisher in particular are commonly seen running across roads and trails. Watch for a dark, long-tailed animal, the size of a large house cat, bounding through the snow throughout the Park!
Otters – Otters, previously extirpated from the area prior to the establishment of the park, have recently returned to the area. RMNP uses wildlife cameras to track otter numbers and look for evidence of successful reproduction. This video is of a female and her two nearly-grown kits. Watch for otters along the little rivers and streams in RMNP – you never know where they will show up!
So what are you waiting for? Get outside, explore the great outdoors, and see if you can spot any of these magnificent creatures! Please share your stories and photos with us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #RidingNP.