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The NWT is one of the largest areas of pristine wilderness in Canada. There are many opportunities to view wildlife, including bears, wolves, bison, coyotes, foxes, beavers, ravens and porcupines. These animals make their home in the NWT’s forests, rocks, tundra and waterways.
For an authentic northern experience, respect wildlife by keeping your distance.
No selfies, please - to get the perfect photo, maintain a safe distance, use your zoom and, if you're on the road, stay in your vehicle.
While it is always interesting to see NWT wildlife in their natural habitat, they should never be given food.
Under the Wildlife Act, it is illegal to intentionally feed wildlife or to leave food, food waste or any other attractants on the land that could attract wildlife and endanger people or animals.
Feeding wildlife causes animals to become used to human interaction, which puts people at risk of bodily harm and disease. Fed animals often end up dead, either from the food itself or because the animal has become a threat to public safety and must be put down.
- Read more: Don't Feed the Wildlife
Bears can be found throughout the NWT, both on the land when travelling or camping and near our communities and roadways.
Stay safe by being bear aware and planning ahead. Carry deterrents like bear spray, make noise when visibility is low and store your food and garbage in sealed containers.
Bears are wild animals and can be stressed or frightened by humans. When you’re in bear country, give bears space.
- Read more: Safety in Grizzly and Black Bear Country
Wood bison are an important part of the boreal ecosystem and are often found on or near NWT highways. They may seem large and lumbering, but they are unpredictable and can run at speeds up to 60 km/hour.
If you see a group of bison standing on or near the road, slow down or stop. Do not approach a bison or exit your vehicle if bison are near the road.
If you are cycling, try to avoid surprising bison. Make noise and give them time to become aware of you. Never enter a herd of bison on foot or come between two animals, especially a cow and her calf.
The most dangerous time for vehicle collisions with bison is between August and November, especially along the following highways:
- Highway 3 – Fort Providence to Yellowknife
- Highway 5 – Fort Smith to Big Buffalo Junction
- Highway 7 – Poplar River to British Columbia border
Take extra care to ensure the safety of both you and the bison.
- Read more: Safety in Bison Country
Each year, ENR receives reports of sick, injured or orphaned wildlife. However, many young animals are not orphans in need of rescuing. Some species leave their offspring temporarily, especially during the day, to relocate them or to search for food. The parents are usually nearby, even if they are not visible to you. Removing an animal from their habitat can often do more harm than good.
If you encounter an animal you think might be sick, injured or orphaned, you may be tempted to act - but even the best intentions can put you both at risk.
Instead, follow these steps:
- Do not remove the animal from its habitat.
- Maintain a safe distance. Check on the animal periodically for 24-48 hours.
- If the mother has not returned or the animal has not moved on within 48 hours, contact your local or regional ENR office.
Report a wildlife emergency using the 24-hour emergency wildlife number in your region.