Yukon's human population of around
30,000 souls would fit within a few city blocks of a large city. But the numbers
of creatures in the Territory is much more impressive. The Yukon is tucked away
in Canada's most western corner and approximately 10,000 black bears and roughly
7000 grizzlies roam across this largely wild land - 482,000 square km or 186,660
sq. miles in size.
Add a few polar bears in the far North, about 50,000 moose nipping away in the
forests and wet lands and maybe 150,000 caribou migrating over huge
distances...... and all of them chased by roughly 5000 wolves.
There are 22,000 mountain sheep, a few hundred musk oxen, some wood bison and
countless other furry animals from foxes to hares and from squirrels to coyote.
And not to forget - 35 trillion mosquitoes and an equal number of black flies
providing not only sumptuous meals to birds but also keeping us tenters
entertained around camp fires.
These following pages are about the larger ones of the Yukon's animals:
* Do not prepare, cook or eat in or near your tent. Do this at least 50 meters
from the tent. And be certain that the wind does not blow the smell of your
cooking toward or into your tent!
* Do not keep food in your tent and, where bears are concerned, toothpaste,
soap, aftershave etc is considered food!
And cookies are considered food too!!
* Do not climb into your tent with clothing you used to cook with.
* Do clean fish straight into a fast flowing part of the river and do it
downstream from your tent.
No river nearby? Where did you get that fish from?
* Do not take any food with you that harbours a strong smell - like canned fish,
bacon, fresh meat, oysters, blue cheese, pizza, poutine.....or anything similar
- like your "steaming" socks!
** If you do not want bears ( or squirrels ) in your tent keep any kind of food
out of your tent and if you are the type of person who will climb into the tent
after having wiped clean your knife, still sticky-with-peanut-butter, on your
pants: then do not blame the bear for - let us say - having a bit of a look.
** Generally, a river traveller will see black bears, but grizzlies will be near
rivers in Spring in search of carcasses of animals and fresh new growth as well
as defenceless moose calves. Grizzlies also will concentrate near salmon
spawning rivers in Fall.
Hikers, since moving most often above the tree line, might encounter both black
bears and grizzlies.
*** Both type of bears are very good swimmers and setting up tent on an island
does not mean the happy river traveller can become careless.
Both type of bears hear, smell and see very well and both can run faster than
humans AND can run just as well down hill as up hill.
All bears like to climb trees with maybe the exception of older grizzlies who
can be on the heavy side. A grizzly you have tried to escape from easily could
uproot a too small tree!!
Grizzlies are larger than black bears and can be found anywhere in the
territory. They can come in all colours ranging from black to brown and even a
shade of blond. The average weight of a fully grown grizzly is around 200 kg
(440 Ib) and over short distances they can reach a speed of 60 km/hour (37
m.p.h.) Grizzlies carry a pronounced hump on their shoulder.
Black bears can be black but also come in shades of brown and to a light blond
and even a slight blue. The average weight of a fully grown black bear is around
120 kg (260 Ib) and over short distances can reach a speed of about 45 km/h (28
m.p.h.) Black Bears are more curious than Grizzlies and they can be more of a
problem in urban areas and on camp grounds, but drifting food smells ( be it
your sausage grilling, your garbage or your dog food) can attract both of them.
A fully grown moose can weigh up to 800kg and encountering one in the wilderness
is a real treat. But, if you find yourself between a female moose and her calves
- Beware! An angry moose will protect her offspring at all costs and even
grizzlies can be rather respectful. Moose have bad eyesight but can smell and
hear very well and are extremely well adapted to live and travel in almost all
terrain. River travellers have very good chances to spot moose along river banks
- sometimes with grizzlies not far away!
Cougars have been spotted in the southern region of the Yukon. They are the
second largest of the cat family in the America's. These large cat's have been
known to attack people - especially children, who, because of their size, can
make easy prey. They are silent stalkers/hunters and very difficult to spot. If
a hiker is faced with a cougar it's best to behave as if dealing with a dog - do
not run away - retreat facing the cougar but not staring into its eyes - and
make yourself as big as possible - and fight like hell if necessary.
Bear proof containers are the best choice to have along when hiking into the
Yukon's wilderness. These food containers are unbreakable by even the most
desperate of bears. Bears are well able to smell what ever foods are inside the
container but, not being able to get at it, will learn to disassociate food
smell from people. Encountering a bear one should leave the container behind
while slowly retreating from the area. After the bear has given up on it and has
moved on, the container can be retrieved.
These containers are currently only available at the Dawson City River Hostel in
Dawson City. E-mail:
Cans of various sizes are sold in most camping stores. The use of bear spray
should be considered only as a last resort and only when the bear has advanced
too close for comfort. Make certain that you are shooting the spray not into the
wind - otherwise it will be you choking and gasping and it might be the bear
passing out observing that hilarious sight!!!