SAIL - Conseils observation de la faune

Catching a Glimpse of Wildlife: Stack the Odds in Your Favour

You don’t need to travel far to see some wildlife. The next time you head out into nature, stack the odds in your favour and follow these tricks for some memorable encounters!

The basics

No matter the animal you hope to see, certain basic principles are followed by all wildlife explorers who want to have some successful sightings!

1. Stay quiet

Whoever enjoys animal-watching has no doubt already been struck by the serene nature of these creatures as they go about in their natural habitat. For a successful glimpse of an animal, it’s of utmost importance to remain calm and as quiet as can be, blending into your surroundings so as not to frighten the animals around you.

2. Avoid chemical odors

Often graced with a heightened, sophisticated sense of smell, animals will smell you before they even see you. If you smell like laundry detergent, fruity shampoo, or vanilla perfume, the odds will be against you that they’ll come near. If you wish to protect yourself from insects and mosquitos, select products with natural ingredients that are odourless.

3. Respect their natural habitat

Whether it be a fern popping up from the ground in spring, an ant hill, or a hare’s burrow, always be careful to remain on the trails so as not to step on anything and respect the fragile ecosystem you are visiting as much as possible. And if you can’t hold back from following that deer path or the call of a blue jay, make sure to stay a few meters away from the animal in order for it not to get used to a human presence and watch out where you put your feet.

4. Be patient

For successful animal observation, patience is key. If you’ve been told that a certain area is the perfect place to see the species you’ve been wanting to see, go during the right time and season, and wait. Sit down, allow your gaze to wander around, and enjoy the quiet moment to appreciate the beauty of nature all around you. You’ll see, it’s most often worth the wait!

5. Take notes

Want to be certain to see a particular animal? Take some notes! As soon as you get out into nature, get into the habit of writing down the GPS coordinates of the spot you’ve found, the time of day, the weather, the direction of the wind…and track your results! With the help of an experienced guide, several trial and error attempts and a lot of perseverance, you’ll practically be certain to get that glimpse you so desire.

Outdoor orienteering gear


If birdwatching more your style, several options are available to you. Aim for mountain hikes to get the chance to see falcons and other birds of prey, check out lakes or swamps to have a chance to see a heron, head deep into a forest to find a woodpecker or go near a river to get a glimpse of a stilt.

While it’s possible to see birds year-round, spring is the perfect time to get the most out of your outing!

Whale watching

Parks in Quebec and Ontario have tons of bodies of water where aquatic animals may also be observed. From beavers and rainbow trout to otters and muskrats, you’ll be sure to see some interesting species. But, for whale watching, you’ve got to head to the Saguenay region of Québec. A true beluga haven, these beautiful white mammals can be found in the Saguenay fjord. You can also learn more about the efforts to protect this endangered species. Around the city of Tadoussac, where the fjord meets the Saint-Lawrence River, you may also catch a glimpse of a seal. But, to see the big whales (including blue whales!), you’ll have to travel east and book a professional guided boat tour. Bring along your binoculars and you’re set for some amazing sightings. 

Binoculars and spotting scopes

Observing moose

To observe large mammals such as bears, moose, or even a caribou, you must not only have patience, but you must be willing to wake up early! These creatures are out at sunrise and sleep for most of the day before coming out again at nightfall. If you really want to see one up close, get up very early, learn to identify their fresh tracks, and stay alert and careful. You might want to wear some camo gear and beware to keep a reasonable distance so as not to frighten the animal and make it charge.

Camo jackets

In conclusion, remember never to feed wild animals, leave no traces behind you (trash, twigs, shells that have been kicked up, etc.) and read up on how to find your way in the woods and the survival essentials you might need!

Have fun!