Cape Churchill caribou herd© Parks Canada
If you were to visit Wapusk National Park (NP) in winter, the land might appear devoid of wildlife. But look closer; Wapusk is home to a surprising number of animals and each of the park's major ecosystems has its own distinctive community. In all, at least 38 mammal species and over 200 species of birds have been found here.
Birds | Mammals | Polar Bears
Snow goose © Parks Canada
A flight over the park or a hike across the tundra in summer and you are bound to spot a flock of snow geese flying or grazing the vegetation on the ground. In fact, their rapid population growth has caused concern that they are stripping areas of land clean of vegetation. Keep your eyes peeled for other birds, including rare species like the Ivory gull, Caspian tern, peregrine Falcon, or the Great Grey Owl.
Other animals you may glimpse include arctic fox, wolves, hares, lemmings and caribou. Wapusk NP's beach ridges and tundra are important to the Cape Churchill caribou herd. During the winter, the beach ridges blow clear of snow and provide important feeding areas, and in the spring, the north-eastern portion of the park serve as calving grounds for the caribou. These caribou exhibit ‘synchronous calving’ behaviour; they migrate to the same general area each year, and have their calves around the same time.
Polar bears fighting© Parks Canada / Kevin Burke
Polar bears, the largest land carnivores, make use of the park throughout the year. Female bears build their dens in the interior peatlands of the park, emerging in winter to travel towards the sea ice. During the ice free periods, bears are forced ashore where they remain until the ice forms again, and they can return to the Hudson Bay to hunt ring seals. A guided excursion into Wapusk NP can allow you to observe these animals in their natural habitat, where you will be taken aback by their sheer beauty and size.
Read below to learn more about this iconic arctic animal: