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Head to the pristine Yukon for a wildlife spectacular

Head to the pristine Yukon for a wildlife spectacular
If you are looking for a wildlife holiday, where better than one of the wildest places in the world to see caribou, moose, bears, sheep, birds and hundreds of other northern species!

THE YUKON is one of North America’s major wilderness attractions; close to 80 per cent remains pristine wilderness, with just over 10 per cent of the territory fully protected. The Yukon has three national parks, six territorial parks and four Canadian Heritage Rivers. Roughly the size of France at 186,661 square miles, The Yukon is home to more than 165,000 caribou, 70,000 moose, 22,000 mountain sheep, 7,000 grizzly bears, 10,000 black bears and 250 species of birds… and only 36,000 humans! In the Yukon, people are outnumbered by moose 2 to 1!

All three North American bears, Black, Grizzly and Polar, can be found in the Yukon, but visitors are much more likely to see a Black Bear than a Grizzly Bear. Black Bears live in forested areas, whereas Grizzly Bears range from southern forested areas and across the tundra to the Arctic Ocean. Polar Bears are only seen on the North Slope and Herschel Island. 

The Yukon grizzly bear population is one of Canada’s largest and most stable in North America (30 per cent of Canada’s grizzlies can be found in the Yukon) and the Alsek River corridor in Kluane National Park UNESCO World Heritage Site has been designated a special preservation area.

Yukon

The Yukon is home to grizzly, black and polar bears

Southwest Yukon is also home to the extremely rare and particularly beautiful colour phase of the black bear: the blue-grey or glacier bears. The undercoat of the glacier bear is a rich blue-black, while the outer guard hairs are long and white (or light yellow) with silver tips. This colour variation probably evolved during the last Ice Age when populations were isolated along the unfrozen sections of the coastline, due to the biological process of genetic drift (random fluctuations in the genetic composition of a small population). The blue-grey colour is ideal camouflage against the backdrop of frozen ice – the bears are nearly impossible to spot unless they are moving.

For the privileged  few, perhaps you will have chance to admire Yukon’s ‘ice bears’. Located within Fishing Branch Ni’iinlii Njik Park, Bear Cave Mountain Eco-Adventures offer exclusive grizzly bear viewing for photographers, artists and wildlife enthusiasts. The park protects this far northern Yukon wilderness with unique features created by limestone caves, year-round open water, salmon runs, and grizzly bears. Fishing Branch not only provides world-class bear viewing opportunities, but is also a cultural and historical area for the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, with an oral history dating back thousands of years. Guests enjoy a helicopter flight over some of the wildest and most scenic country in North America, departing from Dawson City, which lasts almost two hours.

The Yukon has some amazing migrations of wildlife and birds

Whether you are an ardent birder or a casual wildlife watcher, the Yukon’s flyway comes alive as trumpeter swans, geese, sandhill cranes and other migratory birds travel to and from nesting grounds. Birders converge in the Yukon to search for species including harlequin duck, northern hawk owl, wandering tattler, gyrfalcon and three kinds of ptarmigan. The Yukon has some amazing migrations of wildlife and birds:

The largest trumpeter swan Migration (March – May) in North America includes approximately 3,000 birds, which is a miracle considering at one time less than 100 existed.

Approximately 250,000 sandhill cranes return to the Yukon each summer en route to their breeding grounds in the Arctic.

More than 160 species are found along the 750km Dempster Highway corridor, which is the only public road in North America to cross the Arctic Circle. More than 100 nest along the highway, and the Southern Ogilvies and Blackstone uplands are prime birding areas. The Ogilvie Mountains provide a home for several birds of prey, including species of eagles, falcons and owls. Ptarmigan are also seen here. Loons and many types of shorebirds inhabit the Peel plateau and the Mackenzie Delta.

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Yukon’s caribou herd was nominated one of the seven wonders of Canada

Yukon is also home to approximately 130,000–150,000 caribou in one of North America’s last remaining large animal herds.  The herd was nominated as one of the seven wonders of Canada a few years ago.

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Dall sheep on Sheep Mountain, Kluane National Park

The all-white Dall’s (thinhorn) sheep are found only in Yukon and Alaska. The fannin-species of sheep (a cross between Dall’s and bighorn sheep) is found only in the Yukon. Sheep Mountain Visitor Centre in Kluane National Park offers exceptional Dalls sheep viewing for much of the summer.

Visitors are able to download a comprehensive guide on wildlife viewing at http://www.env.gov.yk.ca/animals-habitat/wildlifeviewing.php
Tourism Yukon also have additional information on wildlife viewing at http://www.travelyukon.com/Explore/Things-to-do/Wildlife-Viewing 

Wildlife Worldwide 12-day ‘Yukon’s Ice Bears’ package including flights costs from £9,995 per person, and includes 2 nights in Whitehorse, return flights to Dawson City and 2 nights there, a 4-hour return helicopter transfer to Bear Cave Mountain, and 7 nights in a a remote rustic lodge with all meals included. Tel: 01962 302 086 or visit www.wildlifeworldwide.com

About The Author

Mike Cowton

Michael Cowton, an outdoors writer, editor and photographer with a passion for nature-based travel and wildlife. He is a former editor of EcoTravel, Outdoor Pursuits, Camping, Lakeland Walker and Which Motorcaravan magazines, and national newspaper journalist.

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