Snowy Safaris

Photo: iStockphoto.com/hawha
Getting bored of winter? Try these outdoor activities, or escape indoors with IMAX or exhibits in a city near you.

Winter's here but you don't need to hibernate! Celebrate wildlife with these family-friendly indoor and outdoor activities.

Explore Winter Wonderlands

Where the wild things went. Figure out who frequents your local trail or backyard by analyzing tracks in fresh snow. Keep an eye out for hair caught on fences or twigs, wing prints, owl pellets and scat (aka. poop) as well. Take a sandwich bag to store mysterious objects for further study.

Scavenger hunt. The sparseness of winter reveals details that go unnoticed other times of year. Go for a nature walk and see how many nests, berries, cloud types and birds you can spot. You can even print off a checklist and challenge yourself. [Checklist 1][Checklist 2]

Build snow buddies. Snow people are so passé! When the snow reaches the perfect stickiness, craft your favourite critter instead. Add twigs, stones and bark to create hair, eyes and other features and spray on diluted food colouring to bring your masterpiece to life. Here are some examples to inspire you: sea turtle, porcupine.

Feed the birds. Install a feeder in your yard and keep it well stocked to help neighbourhood birds thrive throughout the winter. Your efforts will be rewarded with great opportunities to view and photograph visitors at close range. Here are some tips to get you started. You can also register for Project FeederWatch and submit your observations to help scientists study winter bird populations.

Build a shelter. Just like us, animals need places to hide out from the cold. Build a brush pile or simply relocate a used Christmas tree to your backyard to provide refuge for reptiles, amphibians and small mammals. A roosting box is a great place for birds to hide out when the worst weather hits.

Ask an expert. See what's happening at your local park, nature centre or conservation authority. Guided hikes, workshops and other programs are often available year-round. For example, the Police Point Park Nature Centre in Medicine Hat, AB offers art and natural history exhibits as well as a StoryWalk program, which runs January 19 – Feb 15. On the other side of the country, kids can learn to cross-country ski through the Jackrabbit program at Alma, NB's Fundy National Park.

Escape the Cold

IMAX theatres – Across Canada.

Travel the world and experience wildlife in its natural habitat, all from the comfort of your chair. Nature flicks playing now include: Great White Shark, Kenya 3D: Animal Kingdom, To The Arctic, Flight of the Butterflies, Born to be Wild, The Last Reef, Titans of the Ice Age and Under the Sea. Find a theatre near you and check listings.

Royal BC Museum – Victoria, BC. Enjoy prize-winning photos from around the world at the new 2013 Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit. Opened November 29.

Ripley's Aquarium – Toronto, ON. This new attraction is now open! Highlights include sharks you can view from underneath, horseshoe crab and stingray touch tanks and a gallery of delicate seahorses, sea dragons and more.

Biodome – Montreal, QC. A Tropical Adventure awaits from December 21 – February 9! Meet Biodome's mascot, Commander Macaw, enjoy a live puppet show and explore interactive exhibits. Don't forget to say “hi” to the adorable lynx kittens, too!

Granby Zoo – Granby, QC. Visit the North Pole without crossing the Arctic Circle! This winter festival boasts activities from carnival games to camel rides and exotic species from Amur tigers to Andean condors. Open daily from March 1-9. Open on weekends only from January 11 – February 23 and March 15 – 30.

Know of any winter wildlife activities in your city or town? E-mail blogs[at]alternativesjournal.ca and we’ll add them to the list!


Ellen Jakubowski is a former A/J intern with a BSc in Biology from the University of Guelph and a science communication diploma from Laurentian University. She works as an interpreter at the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory.

Alternatives Journal (A\J) is Canada’s Environmental Voice, delivering the latest news and ideas about national and global environmental issues. Featuring thoughtful analysis by the nation’s foremost environmental thinkers, plus profiles of inspiring eco-leaders and sustainable living ideas to steal, A\J offers both a vision of a more sustainable future and the tools needed to take us there.