By landmass, Canada is the world’s second-largest country and home to approximately 1,950 different types of animals. Unlike the United States and Mexico — North America’s two other nations — Canada is not a megadiverse country. Nevertheless, it’s wide-open spaces and relatively low human population make it a wildlife wonderland.
Canada is 9.9 square kilometers, containing 15 terrestrial eco-zones and five marine ones. Scientists believe 70,000 to 80,000 plant and animal species occupy the landmass, and an equal number have yet to be discovered.
Canada’s southwest region is a mix of rainforest, desert, and continental climate zones, which the Rockies separate from the middle plains and eastern temperate zones. Further north, tundra conditions persist, and parts of the country lie above the Arctic Circle.
Englishman Samuel Hearne, an 18th-century explorer, fur trader, and naturalist, was the first person to record Canadian animals during his 1795 expedition. John Richardson followed with the Fauna Boreali-Americana in 1829. Today, people interested in Canadian wildlife and animals typically subscribe to The Canadian Field-Naturalist, Canada Journal of Zoology. French speakers can pick up Le Naturaliste Canadien.
The most recent Canadian animal count stands at 200 mammals, about 692 birds, 43 reptiles, and 43 amphibians. Most notably, the following types of animals are found in Canada and in surrounding waters:
Canada is known for its giant residents: moose, wood bison, polar bears, and grizzlies. But in terms of population, rodents are the most plentiful mammals in Canada. Scientists have currently recorded about 200 mammals in the country, and the list ranges from bats to blue whales to bobcats.
When you search “number of bird species in Canada,” you’ll get many different answers. Some counts only include animals native to Canada, some are lists of birds that never leave Canadian airways, and still others are giant listings of every bird that’s ever crossed the border.
We think a good count for the number of birds in Canada is about 687 and 692. That includes between 462 and 467 birds endemic to the country, plus 225 accidental species that immigrated, either by choice or importing, and stayed — or visit for half the year.
Surprisingly, the reptile world is widely represented in the Great White North. Crocodiles are the only reptile group not represented in Canada. Vast and beautiful, Canada is home to some not-so-pleasant reptiles, such as venomous snakes.
What is Canada’s national animal? Many people assume it’s the moose or polar bear, but it’s actually the beaver and Canadian horse.
North American Beaver
On March 24, 1975, the North American beaver became Canada’s National Animal when lawmakers passed the National Symbol of Canada Act, which recognized the animal as “a symbol of the sovereignty of Canada.”
When people first learn this fun fact, the reaction is typically that of unsureness. However, any proud Canadian will set skeptics straight, explaining that beavers are hard-working and highly intelligent, able to build structures visible from space! “What better animal is there to celebrate and uplift?” And we agree: beavers are quite incredible.
Four Fun Facts About Beavers
Beaver lodges are sturdy, comfy, and safe. To evade predators, they build underwater entrances. Inside, there are two rooms: one is a “mudroom,” where beavers dry off and clean themselves. The other is a dry, warm, toasty den where they hang out and socialize.
Built-in swimming goggles? Beavers have them. While swimming, their transparent eyelids “switch on.” They act like goggles and allow beavers to keep their eyes open underwater.
Why are beavers always gnawing on things? It’s their teeth — which never stop growing! To keep their fangs under control, beavers continuously file them down by chewing on bark, buds, stems, and twigs.
Occasionally, beavers will kindly open up their lodges to muskrat families in need.
In 1621, Sir William Alexander was the first person to include a beaver in a recognized coat of arms.
In 2002, after a years-long campaign, parliamentarians added a second national animal to its roster: the Canadian horse — aka cheval Canadien.
The species’ descendants track back to the stables of Louis XIV, France’s Sun King, and they’re graceful, muscled, powerful, and calm.
Calvary men who fought in the American Civil War rode Canadian horses almost exclusively, and it nearly extinguished the breed. Once the war ended, Canada passed a ban on exports to regrow the population.
Alongside the United States, Australia, and the Bahamas, Canada is one of four nations with two national animals.
The five most dangerous animals in Canada are the moose, black widow spider, prairie rattlesnake, cougar, and polar bear.
Moose aren’t meat-eaters, so they don’t attack people for food. But the 1,500-pound behemoths do cause catastrophic harm when they collide with cars and ram vehicles. Moose mainly stick to lake streams deep in the woodlands, but they occasionally collide with humans — so watch out!
Black Widow Spider
Black widow spiders live along Canada’s southern border. They like to hang in dark, quiet places, like sheds, under rocks, and beneath woodpiles.
Despite their reputations, black widows do their best to avoid people and only bite after exhausting all other options. Thankfully, the black widow spiders found in Canada aren’t venomous enough to kill humans, but they can cause lots of pain — and are deadly to smaller animals.
Prairie rattlesnakes slither around southwestern Alberta, and if you come across one, be very careful! It is rare for people to die from snake bites, however, it does happen. For instance, in 2018, a man lost his life after a prairie rattlesnake struck him during a golf outing. If bitten, stay calm and call 911 immediately.
Cougars, the second heaviest big cat after the jaguar, rarely attack humans, but they will in trying times or in defence of young cubs. In Canada, they live around the Rocky Mountain region.
Polar bears are beautiful and deadly! While they won’t charge people, unless provoked, it is important to watch out! Polar bears weigh between 330 and 1,200 pounds and have been known to decapitate humans with one swipe of their giant paws.
Zoos in Canada
Canada is home to 28 accredited zoos, with the Toronto Zoo being the largest. The top 5 zoos to visit in Canada are as follows:
Toronto Zoo – Especially known for its Great Barrier Reef and Tundra Trek exhibits, this zoo is the largest in Canada. About 5,000 animals of 450+ species roam the 710 acres. Opportunities for riding animal-themed rides are available, along with walking trails, interacting with wildlife, and attending keeper talks and feedings.
Calgary Zoo – Not only home to wolves, bears, and African wildlife, this zoo is known for its amazing panda exhibit and Conservatory Gardens and Butterflies section, holding a plethora of flying beauties and green fauna.
Edmonton Zoo – Around 100 species are displayed in this zoo, the most popular being red pandas and a 45-year-old Asian elephant named Lucy. Focused on wildlife conservation, the Edmonton Zoo works toward educating visitors with interactive programs and intimate experiences.
Granby Zoo – Located outside of Montreal lies the Granby Zoo, established in 1953 and home to 200+ species of animal. Of the many attractions, the petting zoo, monorail, waterpark, and jungle training camp for kids draw visitors in. Also available is an interactive dinosaur exhibit and feeding rays and birds.
Magnetic Hill Zoo – Focused on protecting wildlife and habitats, the Magnetic Hill Zoo promotes education and interaction of visitors. Some exciting species found here include Madagascar lemurs, Amur tigers, and Gibbon apes. Zookeeper programs for children are especially attractive to visitors.
Canadian Animals FAQ?
Where Can I Find the Most Updated List of Endangered Canadian Animals?
Canada’s endangered species list is constantly changing. To keep up with the latest counts and assessments, head over to Canada’s List of Wildlife Species at Risk (SARA), an ongoing project maintained by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
What Does the Canadian Wildlife Act Do?
The Canadian Wildlife Act defines National Wildlife Areas (NWAs), National Parks, and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries. It also outlines the country’s endangered species programs.
The capybara, the world’s largest rodent, likes to be in and around bodies of water. Because of this, the Catholic Church in South America decided that it was a fish, and people were allowed to eat it during Lent and First Fridays.