Winter Wildlife to Spot on Trails Across Canada

The bears and marmots have gone to sleep, many birds have long headed to warmer climates and the trees droop with snow. Nature is muffled, quiet and dead.

Or is it?

The snowy world, though subdued, is still very much alive, and if you are still hitting the trails this winter you may see animals on the move too!

The chickadees, for one, rarely seem to stop playing their games in the trees, chirping happily as they hop and flutter, oblivious to the numbing cold.

Here are 11 types of wildlife you might spot on trails this winter.

Hint: it’s easier to spot wild things in the winter than in the summer thanks to the blank, leafless backdrop and footstep muffling snow!


The best time of year to track (and perhaps catch a glimpse of) the elusive lynx or shy bobcat is in the winter. Their light step and furry paws means their pad prints are easily missed on trails during the summer, but in the season of chills it is obvious where they’ve been prowling.


A warm splash of colour is always welcome on chilly days spent tramping around in the snow. Foxes like to hide from the cold in thick brush during the winter so keep an eye out for a flash of rust-coloured fur when they are out hunting for food.

Mountain Goats

Westerners, you earn some serious bragging rights if you spot one of these white-haired creatures during the winter. Mountain goats notoriously look like patches of snow and vice versa, so train your binoculars on suspicious looking white spots hanging out in the cliffs for a chance at a sighting!


Filling snowy aspen groves with their distinctive, cheerful lilt, the easily recognizable chickadee is a very common winter sight.


For those living in the west, look for light brown bodies and bright white rumps. The rams have large curling horns and the ewes short, pointed horns. You’ll see them grazing on grassy hillsides in small groups, enjoying the sunshine.

Rabbits and Hares

Evidence of their romps through the powder is everywhere, although they can be hard to spot, thanks to their light-coloured winter coats.


The stillness of the snow-covered world is shattered by the drilling noises of woodpeckers, making them easy to locate as they flit from one tree to another. While some species migrate, some can be found braving the cold to snack on insects hidden under tree bark. Look for black and white markings and a red head!

Mice and Voles

It’s not common see these fellas skittering around above the snow because they travel in tunnels through the snow, but occasionally they will break the surface. I’ve seen them skittering in and out of boot tracks on mountain trails, frantically trying to evade being spotted by the next animal on our list.

Owls and Hawks

Owls and hawks always seem to be glaring through the snowflakes from their lofty perches, unimpressed with the white world that’s hiding their prey. The good news for us wildlife spotters is the leafless trees makes their unmistakeable silhouettes obvious.

Deer, Elk and Moose

Moose, with their dark bodies, are easy to spot when the world is white, as are elk. Deer’s winter coats are a shade on the grey side compared to their buff summer coats, so they do blend in well with the bare bushes and trees but are obvious when browsing for food on a snowy slope.

Grouse and Other Gallinaceous Birds

Grouse are the scariest birds out there. The sudden sound of wing beats exploding from a bush beside me always sends my stomach crashing to the forest floor. They and their pheasant and partridge cousins are beautiful birds to spot, though, comically rubber-necking their way through the woods.

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