Wildlife Viewing Through the Seasons


Yukon is known to be home to 4 species of amphibians, 36 fish species, 66 mammal species, 227 bird species, 1238 plant species and 6000+ species of insects


When the word "wildlife" is mentioned, most people envision vast herds of

caribou, a majestic moose, or a Grizzly Bear fishing in a pristine mountain stream. Yet there is far more to Yukon wildlife than charismatic large mammals.

Most people enjoy wildlife viewing during summer, yet wildlife abounds throughout the year. The key to successful wildlife viewing is to know where and how to see.



February March
April May June


August September
October November December


January; only the heartiest wildlife can be found. The bear, marmot, ground squirrel and others are bedded down awaiting spring, yet this is a good time to see other species that are still active. Caribou are unconcerned with cold. Ptarmigan can be seen with their "snowshoe" feathers on the soles of their feet. Tracks are one of the best ways to find wildlife in winter.

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February is the time when nature is beginning to shake off those winter blues. High on lonely alpine ridges, the Golden Eagle migration has begun. The Bohemian Waxwings also return to the southern Yukon to feed on frozen berries. Wolves and owls are courting and mating at this time of year. Listen for hoots and howls in the forest.

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March heralds the return of spring with flocks Snow Buntings that are seen by the roadside in abundance. As open water begins to appear in the ice choked lakes and rivers, the first Trumpeter Swan scouts will search for roots of pondweeds. It is also in late March that the first spring flowers appear. Long-time Yukoners will scoff at the thought of flowers in March but look closely as the willows begin to bloom.

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April is the month when life is displaying everywhere. Our first showy spring flower, the Prairie Crocus, blooms. Mourning Cloak butterflies emerge from their winter sleep in the needles and leaves of the forest floor, to feed on the abundant willows. Arctic Ground Squirrels alarm calls announce springs arrival. See the spring unfold as thousands of swans, both Tundra and Trumpeter, converge on M'Clintock Bay along with waterbirds and gulls of all kinds.

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May is the month for the birdwatcher. Sandhill Cranes migrate early in May. Faro is an excellent location to experience thousands of cranes flying in large V-shaped flocks. It rarely gets dark enough to see the stars anywhere within the territory by the end of May and it is one of the best times to observe Thinhorn Sheep. Dall's Sheep and their lambs can easily be seen on the face of Sheep Mountain in Kluane National Park. The even more unusual Fannin Sheep can be seen from the Mount Mye Sheep Centre in Faro.

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June is nesting time and a good time to see Peregrine Falcons and Gyrfalcons nesting. Be careful not to approach any nest, not only for your own health but falcons have been known to accidentally knock their eggs out of the nest when disturbed. The rivers are where the moose are, feeding on the succulent aquatic vegetation. Watch for bears along the roadsides as they take advantage of early greens.

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July  Though it seems they have only just arrived, bird migration south begins in July. Species such as Chipping Sparrows are an unusual find after July 31. At this time of the year you will want to get off the highway and explore many other reaches of Yukon. July is the height of flower bloom especially in the alpine. Be careful not to disturb the wildlife. Try to use telephoto lenses and binoculars whenever possible. Pick up a free copy of Into the Yukon Wilderness at Visitor Centres or government offices to travel safety and gently through the Yukon wilderness.

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August is the height of shorebird migration. Nisutlin Delta National Wildlife Area just northeast of Teslin is an excellent location to view shorebirds. Where there is an abundance of shorebirds, birds of prey can also be found. Look for Peregrine Falcons hunting the Lesser Yellowlegs, or Merlins and American Kestrels perching on the old stumps sticking out of the deltas shifting sands. For those who like to hike this is an excellent month. There is beginning to be some dark at night and the alpine areas are full of berries. Where there are berries there surely are bears, so keep your eyes open.

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September heralds the return of the Sandhill Crane migration. This may be the best month to canoe down a large river. Cool crisp mornings, leaves changing colours, and moose grunting all serenaded by the cranes over head. Dall's Sheep return to their winter range on Sheep Mountain in Kluane National Park and Mount Mye in Faro. In the Takhini Valley just west of Whitehorse and near the Braeburn Airstrip, Elk bugling can be heard.

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October; animals are wearing their winter coats preparing for the first snows of winter. The Collared Lemming of the North Slope and Peel River watersheds can be seen on the Dempster Highway. Other Yukon animals that change to a white colour in the winter include Snow Buntings, ptarmigan, Snowshoe Hare, and Arctic Fox. Yet one of the greatest wildlife viewing events in October occurs when the Porcupine Caribou Herd return to the Dempster Highway. Thousands of animals may be seen as they travel across and along the highway.

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November echoes with the sounds of Faro's fabulous Fannin's Sheep as rams ram rams. The large males that have been separated from the ewes and lambs for much of the year return to mate. The rams stop eating as they challenge each other for the attention of the ewes. Wolves that have been separated during the summer reform their packs. They can often be heard howling as they sing to one another.

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December has arrived again. As the last of the large lakes in the south begin to freeze, a few hardy ducks remain. There is a story about a Common Merganser that wintered on the Klondike River. This individual lived in the airspace between the ice that formed in the autumn and the water surface that dropped during the winter. The ptarmigan move down from their mountain locales into the lower elevation willow thickets. This is a time when the lynx, marten and coyote can be found through their tracks left behind in the snow. Red Squirrels take naps, sometimes days at a time, only to emerge to feed.

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Contact Wildlife Viewing

Phone: 867-667-8291
Toll free (in Yukon, NWT & Nunavut):

1-800-661-0408 ext. 8291
Fax: 867-393-6263
Email: wildlife.viewing@gov.yk.ca

Environment Yukon

Government of Yukon

Box 2703 (V-5N)
Whitehorse, Yukon
Y1A 2C6