Whale watching, Manicouagan (Côte-Nord), © TQ/M.Loiselle

Wildlife observation

From moose to humpback whale, Canada goose to great blue heron, more than 650 types of vertebrate—including 90 mammal and 300 bird species—inhabit Québec’s carefully preserved territory. Many can be seen in the wilderness or glimpsed by chance during nature walks. This applies equally to migratory birds, land mammals—including cervids (white-tailed deer, moose, caribou), bears and beavers—and marine mammals like the many whales that call the St. Lawrence estuary home.

Nature lovers will want to catch the upstream migration of Atlantic salmon in the fishways—and, with a little luck and patience, the springtime “rolling” of the capelin on the sandy beaches of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Québec is one of the few places on earth to play host to such a wide variety of cetaceans: no less than 13 species, attracted by the St. Lawrence River's wealth of edibles and impressive depth. The largest mammal on the planet, the blue whale, is a regular visitor, as are the fin, minke and humpback whales. Besides these giants, you might see porpoises, dolphins and belugas—the small white whales that live in the St. Lawrence year-round and are now an endangered species. As well as large cetaceans, you can see seals in the estuary and gulf from the shoreline or during boat or sea-kayaking excursions.


Whale, St. Lawrence River © TQ/Gremm

Twice a year, hundreds of thousands of snow geese come in for a landing alongside the St. Lawrence. A real feast for the eyes and ears, these immense flocks transform the shoreline into a rippling sea of white as the air fills with deafening cries. And when these valiant vagabonds suddenly take wing, the sight of their breathtaking aerial ballet is the stuff of legend.

Fall migration

In October, the snow geese rest up along the St. Lawrence estuary before continuing the journey that will take them from the Great North to their winter habitat on the Atlantic seaside—a trek of some 8,000 km. They feed on the river’s muddy banks for about three weeks. The most impressive concentrations can usually be seen mid-month at Cap Tourmente, 60 km east of Québec City. Large numbers of the geese can also be observed in Montmagny, home to the famous snow goose festival each October.

Spring migration

On the return leg of their journey each spring, the geese touch down on the Atlantic coast in late March and stay until the end of May. Many other bird species, including Canada geese, ducks and birds of prey, join them on their Québec stopover. Baie-du-Febvre, on the south shore of Lac Saint-Pierre (between Montréal and Québec City) welcomes immense numbers of geese. For its part, Parc national de Plaisance on the Ottawa River plays host to tens of thousands of Canada geese.


Snow geese © TQ/M.- A. Delisle
Atlantic puffin, Duplessis © TQ/J. Schell
Northern gannet, Gaspésie © TQ/C. Savard

Québec’s forests are the habitat of many large mammals like the white-tailed deer, moose, caribou and black bear. But that’s not all: they’re also home to plenty of smaller critters like beavers, foxes, porcupines, raccoons, chipmunks and red squirrels, all of whom are easily spotted. If you keep your ears open, you may well hear the call of the loon or the howling of wolves, too. In short, when walking through the woods, stay on the lookout!

White-tailed deer

Found all over southern Québec, the white-tailed deer is frequently encountered at a bend in the trail, the edge of the woods or even close to certain villages, often at dusk. They’re even regularly sighted near Montréal at Parc national des Îles-de-Boucherville. But Île d’Anticosti in the Duplessis region boasts the greatest number: over 160,000 deer inhabit the island.


Moose, the largest members of the cervid (deer) family, are another fairly common sight in Québec. The Réserve faunique de Matane in Gaspésie, which boasts the greatest concentration in Québec, offers moose photo safaris.


The Baie-James and Nunavik regions are home to massive herds of caribou—members of the reindeer family—that roam far and wide through the seasons. Exceptionally, a few dozen individuals may be observed further south in the higher reaches of Parc national des Grands-Jardins (Charlevoix) and Parc national de la Gaspésie, where they coexist with deer and moose.

Black bear

The black bear, the only bear family member in Québec other than the polar bear (Nunavik), can be found in most forests across the province. Observation of this omnivore in its natural habitat—a rigorously supervised activity—is possible at the Réserve faunique des Laurentides and the Station touristique Duchesnay near Québec City.


Beaver lodges and dams are spotted easily enough, but the animal itself remains somewhat elusive. That’s not to say you won’t meet a beaver or two in the course of a canoeing or kayaking trip. Friendly humans can find out more about this industrious little creature at many of Québec’s national parks, including the Aiguebelle, Pointe-Taillon, Jacques-Cartier, Forillon, Oka and Plaisance parks.


Black bear, Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean © TQ/C. Savard
Common loon, Réserve faunique Mastigouche © TQ/J. Fiset
Beaver, Charlevoix © TQ/A. Quenneville