A Brief Guide to Laurentian Winter Wildlife

Even in winter, the Laurentian forest is inhabited by animals of all types. If we pay attention and are discreet, we can discern their tracks in the snow, hear them in the distance, or see them among the trees. “There are many species that will remain in Quebec and be active during the winter”, indicates Anie Rivard-Paré, project managerLaurentian ecological corridors. A brief guide to winter wildlife.



There are around thirty species of birds that live in our trees during the cold season. Among them, we include the boreal waxwing, the cedar wing, the blue jay, the goldfinch, the grosbeak, without forgetting the tit and the cardinal, whose red plumage “stands out” against the white snow .

“There are species that we only see in winter in the Laurentians. The snow flag, which descends from the north, is in Quebec in January and February. There needs to be snow to be here,” says Rivard-Paré. She also gives as an example the snowy owl, which can be seen at the edge of the forest. “In the Laurentians, there are certain places where we know there is one. At Mirabel airport, it’s always whoever sees it first”, says the biologist.

The snowy owl

Some bustards even decide to spend the winter here instead of migrating south with their peers. There is much less food available for them in winter, but there is still enough to sustain a few individuals, explains Ms. Rivard-Paré. Furthermore, migration itself carries risks. It’s a big, demanding trip that consumes a lot of energy. And moving in large groups means exposing yourself to predation.


The deer or white-tailed deer

Among mammals are, of course, deer, elk and squirrel. The squirrel (or Swiss), on the other hand, hibernates. “That doesn’t mean we won’t see them if we have nice, warm days. But every time he wakes up, there is a risk that he will not survive the winter. It’s the same thing for bears. Waking up is a huge energy expenditure”, highlights Rivard-Paré.

Otherwise, there are the hare, the turkey and the fox that remain in Quebec. The porcupine is active in winter, but it can be difficult to discern it in the trees. “It eats the sapwood: part of the bark through which the tree’s sugar passes. »

The lynx, which we associate with winter, is “very silent and difficult to see.” Yet we can hear your cry in the forest, that “curdles the blood”, remembering a person who would be attacked. The wolf is present in Mont-Tremblant Park, but its presence further south is “very rare, very anecdotal”. If you think you’ve seen one, you’re more likely to mistake it for a coyote, for example, says the biologist.


“It may seem surprising, but there are insects that we can see in winter,” says Rivard-Paré. At the end of winter, you can often see black grains in the snow, which appear to be bouncing. “They are springtails, which can jump 500 times their height! This is my sign that spring is coming. »

The biologist points out that in winter, insects are not very buried in the soil or under the snow. “When they are not dormant, they can react quickly to changes in temperature, for example if autumn extends into early December. And there are late species, which remain active as long as there are no major frosts. The sun may then be enough for them to be activated. »

Traces in the snow


Snow itself can teach us many things. “If you know how to look carefully, you might see traces of rats, for example. » You can even see traces of wings, for example from birds of prey, if you pay attention. And if you’re lucky, “you might see mouse tracks, then wing tracks, and then no mouse tracks at all,” says Rivard-Paré. This would indicate that an owl or owl has found food.

Deer and hares make “trails”, which facilitate their movements. “They don’t always need to sink in the snow”, illustrates the biologist. You may also find droppings near these trails. And if you look at the wooden branches sticking out of the snow, you can see if the cuttings have been eaten. “It’s a very clear bevel when it’s a hare, but it’s ripped out when it’s a deer. »

Tips to increase our chances

Making as little noise as possible is “an excellent way” to increase our chances of seeing the local wildlife. “And it allows us to better understand sounds: birdsong, animal cries or the sound of their movements”, advises the biologist.

Leave your dog at home or at least pick up its excrement: the predator smell is strong, lasts a long time and repels many species. To stay away main roadswhich have a “barrier effect” for many species.

For nocturnal species, we will be more likely to see them at dawn or dusk. “For most diurnal species, it is morning, because they will move to their feeding sites. »

The day after a heavy snowfall, deer will remain in their den, covered. “But when the snow is fresh, we will see newer, well-marked tracks. » And when the sky is clear, sounds carry further, whereas they are muffled in gray or cloudy weather.

Generally, remember that you are visiting animals in their homes. Therefore, reduce what can stress them as much as possible, especially in a difficult period like winter. “Avoid approaching them, disturbing them or waking them up. It is very important not to let your dog run in the forest without a leash. It is your quality of life that is affected. »

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