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10 surprising facts about Canada's wildlife

  • Nov 24, 2014
  • 681 words
  • 3 minutes
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Over the last few weeks I’ve been sharing a selection of my favourite stats and feats from my new book Canadian Geographic Biggest and Best of Canada: 1000 Facts & Figures. If you enjoy trivia, particularly Canadian trivia, or have a particular fascination with Canadian facts and accomplishments, you’ll surely enjoy my book. In the hopes of further capturing your interest, over the coming weeks I’m sharing a top-10 selection of items from each category that particularly stood out for me. This week: animals.

1. The biggest animal on Earth calls Canada home (at least part of the time). Blue whales, which can grow up to 27 m long and weigh up to 132 tonnes, are found in Canadian waters along Canada’s east coast. Not only are blue whales the largest creature on the planet, they’re also the loudest. Their cry can reach 186 decibels, louder than a jet plane.

2. The largest land animal in North America is the wood bison, which can be found in Alberta, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. Mature males can reach 3.8 m in length, stand 2 m high at the shoulder and can weigh up to 900 kg. It’s believed there were once more than 168,000 wood bison in Canada, but hunting and severe winters have decimated the population. Today the country is home to only about 10,000 of these animals.

3. The pronghorn antelope, found in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, is the fastest land animal in North America, capable of reaching speeds up to 72 km per hour in short bursts and sustaining speeds up to 60 km per hour over longer distances. Its speeds over longer distance lead some to consider it the fastest land animal in the world.

4. You do NOT want to be the prey of the peregrine falcon. Why? When hunting, peregrines can dive at more than 300 km per hour, making them the fastest bird in the world. The highest recorded speed of a peregrine is reported to be 389 km per hour. Here’s hoping the prey don’t even see it coming.

5. Too bad there are no frequent flyer miles for birds. If there were, the Arctic tern would earn lots of free flights. After all, the small seabird, which summers in Canada’s north, has the longest migration of any bird in the world. It travels some 40,000 km from its Arctic breeding grounds to its winter home near Antarctica and back again.

6. If you’ve got ophidiophobia (a fear of snakes), DON’T stop here. Manitoba’s Narcisse Wildlife Management Area has the largest concentration of snakes in the world. It’s estimated that up to 70,000 snakes use hibernacula (hibernation sites) here, particularly the red-sided garter snake. The snakes emerge in massive wriggly masses on the first warm days of May. In fact, Mother’s Day, of all days, is often a prime time to see the spectacle.

7. Know what Canada’s largest rodent is? We’re so proud of it we put it on our nickel, and it’s celebrated as a symbol of Canadiana. Yes, the beaver — which attained official status as a national emblem on March 24, 1975.

8. Keep your eyes peeled: Canada’s smallest bird is the calliope hummingbird, which is about 7 cm long and weighs just 2.5 g. It’s found in central British Columbia and southwestern Alberta.

9. They weigh just 12.4 g, so it’s little wonder that the pygmy shrew is the smallest mammal in the Americas. Looking like something between a mouse and a mole, shrews are small: the pygmy’s head and body average length is about 5.1 to 6.4 cm. They can be found throughout most of eastern Canada.

10. You could call it the green giant. Canada’s tallest recorded tree stands 56 m high. The western red cedar, located in British Columbia’s Pacific Rim National Park, was discovered in 1988 and has been nicknamed “Cheewhat Giant” because of its proximity to Cheewhat Lake. The diameter of the tree is more than 6 m and contains an estimated 450 cubic m in timber volume.


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