Breeds with Speed

The speed skating competitions begin today in Sochi, Russia. Canadian athletes such as Charles and François Hamelin are out to prove they are the fastest in the world. But how does Canada’s wildlife stack up against these speedy challengers?


Bronze Medal – Pacific Salmon

 Dan Cook (USFWS)
Dan Cook (USFWS)

The Pacific Salmon may by small but its features make it very speedy. Pacific Salmon can reach speeds up to 35 kilometres per hour which is useful when escaping the claws of a Grizzly Bear, their greatest predator. Their pectoral fins allow them to abruptly turn left, right, up, and down while their dorsal fin stabilizes them in rushing waters.

Silver Medal- Pronghorn Antelope

 Yathin S Krishnappa
Yathin S Krishnappa


This speedy land animal can reach speeds of 100 kilometres per hour; second only to the Cheetah. The Pronghorn Antelope is so speedy in fact, that has white racing stripes along its neck! Unlike speed skaters who compete for sport, Pronghorns need their speed to outrun predators like Bobcats and Coyotes.


Gold Medal- Peregrine Falcon


Juan Lacruz
Juan Lacruz

As the fastest animal in the world, the Peregrine Falcon can reach up to 300 kilometres per hour while diving for prey.  Its streamline body, compact feathers, and long pointed wings make this predator capable of great speeds. Speed skaters have learned from these birds and now wear spandex suits to mimic the falcon’s compact and streamline body.

Figure Skating: Individual

Today, Canada’s top figure skaters are set to impress the Olympic judges. Canadian competitors Patrick Chan and defending Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir will use stunning visual displays to win the hearts of Canada and the world.

Even before figure skating or the Olympics, Canadian species have been winning the hearts of their partners through beautiful displays of song, dance and quirky talents.

Bronze Medal Winner – Jumping Spider

 G. B. Edwards
G. B. Edwards

This small and fuzzy competitor wins Bronze for its fanciful leg work. With their eight legs, they do a linear dance, a zigzag dance, and even their own take on the can-can to impress their lady friends. If these ballroom skills aren’t impressive enough, they often leap into the air to avoid predators. These dancing sweethearts are sure to impress more than just interested females.

Silver Medal Winner – Red-necked Grebe



The silver medal goes to the Red-necked Grebe. This attractive avian goes all out to sweep their love interests off their little bird feet.  Both male and females take part in complex mating rituals often mirroring each other’s movements.  They are known to rush forward, side by side with an upright posture, presenting each other with plant pieces.


Gold Medal Winner – Hooded Seal


The male hooded seal takes the gold medal for its unusual ability to impress females by turning its nasal sac into a large heart-shaped balloon. Resembling a large red bubble of gum, hooded seals perform this romantic display on ice! Like their ice skating human counterparts, this talented species was born to be on ice. They are known to travel the ice between Canada and Russia and spend their lives following ice flows just like Polar Bears. Aspiring figure skaters, take note of that dedication. Hooded Seals are truly stars on ice!




Go with the Floe

Floe: a floating sheet of ice

Gold medal hopefuls such as Kaillie Humphries and Lascelles Brown will be competing in the bobsledding competitions which will test their ability to travel efficiently down an icy track.

Since Canada is known for seriously cold winter temperatures, many national species rely on ice for their survival.

Bronze Medal- Atlantic Walrus

This bronze medallist uses icy areas for both rest and play. Atlantic Walruses can be seen clumsily shuffling across ice in herds, but once they enter the water they are expert swimmers. They have large tusks which can be used to create breathing holes in the ice so they may swim underneath it.

Ansgar Walk




Silver Medal- Lemming

The Lemming may be the most important creature in the Canadian Arctic because it is the primary food source for many northern species such as the Arctic Fox and the Snowy Owl.  Lemmings are still a mystery to scientists as they almost become extinct every four years, only to bounce back with record high populations. They have even been spotted running on sea ice 55 kilometres from land for unknown reasons.

Photo of lemming from Netherlands: Sander van der Wel












Gold Medal- Narwhal

It could be said that ice is a Narwhal’s best friend. These whales follow the flow of ice sheets because it protects them from the harsh seas and predators such as the Polar Bear.  Since they are mammals, they make sure to travel under areas of cracked ice that allow them to surface and breathe. These majestic creatures were hunted in the Middle Ages for their tusks which is actually a large incisor tooth. The ‘tusks’ were sold as a unicorn horn and credited as having “magical powers.”

Glenn Williams





Sweetest Tricks

It takes skill and the right attitude to become the best snowboarder in the world. Luckily in Canada, our wildlife is brimming with skill and attitude. There’s going to be some sweet tricks at the Olympics this week, but none as sweet as the ones performed by Canadian wildlife.

Bronze Medal-Porcupine

With over 30,000 quills, the Porcupine makes a very intimidating first impression.  The best trick of this slow living relative of the beaver is mostly an illusion. When threatened it will turn its back to the enemy and aggressively thrash its tail dislodging quills.  The force from this will make it appear the quills were shot out.   This is one trick that looks very impressive!


                                                 Figure 1: Mharrsch



Silver Medal-American Crow

This silver medalist can be found showing off its matte black plumage in a city near you. Think what you want about its attitude, the American Crow may be the most intelligent bird on earth. This bird’s signature trick is dropping tough to crack nuts at busy intersections for cars to run over. They will then wait with pedestrians at the cross walk until they are safe to get their snack.  The crow’s sweet tricks and dedication to snacking has earned it the silver medal.



                               Figure 2:Public Domain


Gold Medal-Sea Otter

The most laid back animal with the sweetest tricks is obviously the Canadian Sea Otter. These mammals rock the thickest fur coats of any animal and spend their day’s body surfing on their backs. When it’s time to eat they’ll grab a clam, place it on their chest, and smash it open with a rock. They are one of the only animals who can do this trick. Watch out Shawn White, the Sea Otter might be cooler than you.



                       Figure 3: Mike Baird



Figures de style parfaites

Il faut être agile et faire preuve d’une bonne attitude pour devenir le meilleur surfeur des neiges au monde. Heureusement au Canada, notre faune possède à la fois cette agilité et cette attitude. Aux Olympiques, nous allons assister à l’exécution de figures de style cette semaine, mais aucune ne sera aussi parfaite que celles qui sont réalisées par la faune canadienne.


Gagnant de la médaille de bronze — Le porc-épic

Avec ses quelque 30 000 piquants, le porc-épic peut produire une première impression assez intimidante. La meilleure figure que réalise cette lente créature, cousine du castor, tient en grande partie de l’illusion. Lorsqu’il se sent menacé, le porc-épic tourne le dos à son adversaire et fouette agressivement sa queue, ce qui a pour effet d’en déloger les piquants. La force de ce coup de queue donne l’impression que les piquants sont projetés, ce qui n’est pas le cas. Un truc qui a l’air très impressionnant!

Gagnant de la médaille d’argent – La Corneille d’Amérique

Vous pouvez retrouver cette médaillée faisant étalage de son plumage noir mat dans une ville près de chez vous. Pensez ce que vous voulez de cette attitude, il n’en demeure pas moins que la Corneille d’Amérique est probablement l’oiseau le plus intelligent de la ​​terre. Sa figure de style « signature », c’est la méthode qu’elle a trouvée pour casser des coquilles de noix difficiles en les laissant tomber au milieu d’intersections achalandées afin que les voitures leur roulent dessous. Ensuite, elle attend à la traverse avec les piétons le bon moment pour récupérer sa collation en toute sécurité. Cette figure de style et sa persévérance valent à la Corneille d’Amérique la médaille d’argent.

Gagnant de la médaille d’or – La loutre de mer

L’animal le plus décontracté avec ses figures de style des plus parfaites est certainement la loutre de mer du Canada. Ce mammifère porte le plus épais des manteaux de fourrure et passe ses journées à faire du surf sans planche sur le dos. Quand il est temps de manger, la loutre saisit une palourde, la place sur sa poitrine, et à l’aide d’une roche, brise sa coquille. La loutre est l’un des rares animaux à pouvoir réaliser ce truc. Prenez garde, Shawn White : la loutre de mer pourrait bien être plus « cool » que vous!



Olympic Updates: Feb 204

Death Defying

The sport of skeleton may seem insane to some. Sliding head first down an icy track at speeds of over 100 kilometres is truly a death defying feat. Yet, these athletes live to see another day.

There are some Canadian species that have battled against the odds and are fortunately still with us today.

Bronze Medal- Whooping Crane

The destruction on this majestic bird’s habitat brought their entire population down to 16! Today the number of Whooping Cranes in the wild is over 200. This species defied death because concerned Canadians acted fast. With a six foot wingspan and amazing ability to travel for 10 hours without stopping the Whooping Crane would be missed.



Figure 1: U.S. Department of Agriculture



Silver Medal-Vancouver Island Marmot 

This marmot is uniquely Canadian and can only be found in patches of meadow along mountainsides in British Columbia. It is one of the rarest mammals in the world, with as little as 30 known to be wild in 2003.  The numbers have increased to between 320 and 370 in the years since. It is thought the reason for their decline was an increased number of predators such as wolves, cougars, and hawks hunting them because their usual prey had become scarce.


Gold Medal- Black-Footed Ferret

It was thought the black-footed ferret had become globally extinct due to farmers exterminating their primary food source, prairie dogs. Until one day a farmer’s dog came home with a black-footed ferret between its jaws. Researchers found a colony of 129 wild ferrets. All but 18 died from a disease epidemic soon after. Of these survivors, only seven reproduced in captivity with their offspring released back into the wild.  Today there are more than 1,000 black-footed ferrets living in the wild. The death defying black-footed ferret acts as a reminder that humans must be aware of their impact on the environment.



                                           Figure 3: Ryan Hagerty



Défier la mort

Le skeleton est un sport qui peut sembler fou pour certains. Glisser, tête première, sur une piste glacée à des vitesses qui peuvent atteindre 100 kilomètres-heure est un véritable défi lancé à la mort. Et pourtant, ces athlètes survivent.

Il existe quelques espèces canadiennes qui ont lutté contre vents et marées pour leur survie et qui sont heureusement encore avec nous aujourd’hui.

Gagnant de la médaille de bronze – La Grue blanche d’Amérique  

La destruction de l’habitat de cet oiseau majestueux a fait en sorte qu’il n’est resté que 16 survivants de cette espèce! Aujourd’hui, le nombre de Grues blanches à l’état sauvage a grimpé à plus de 200 individus. Cette espèce a pu défier ainsi la mort parce que des Canadiens inquiets ont réagi rapidement. Avec des ailes d’une envergure de six pieds et son étonnante capacité à voyager pendant 10 heures sans s’arrêter, la Grue blanche nous aurait bien manquée.

Gagnant de la médaille d’argent – La marmotte de l’île de Vancouver

La marmotte de l’île de Vancouver est unique au Canada et elle ne peut être trouvée que dans les prairies longeant les montagnes de la Colombie-Britannique. Elle est l’un des mammifères les plus rares au monde et il ne restait en 2003 que 30 individus connus vivant à l’état sauvage. Dans les années qui ont suivi, le nombre de marmottes a augmenté jusqu’à 370 individus. On pense que leur déclin a été causé par une augmentation du nombre de prédateurs tels que les loups, les couguars et les faucons qui les chassaient parce que leurs proies habituelles étaient devenues rares.


Gagnant de la médaille d’or – Le putois d’Amérique

On croyait le putois d’Amérique disparu à l’échelle mondiale en raison de l’extermination par les agriculteurs de leur principale source de nourriture, les chiens de prairie. Jusqu’au jour où le chien d’un agriculteur est revenu à la maison, tenant dans sa gueule un putois d’Amérique. Les chercheurs ont trouvé une colonie de 129 putois sauvages. Tous, sauf 18 d’entre eux, ont succombé à une épidémie peu de temps après cette découverte. Parmi ces survivants, sept seulement se sont reproduits en captivité et leur progéniture a été relâchée dans la nature. Aujourd’hui, on compte plus de 1 000 putois vivant à l’état sauvage. Ces putois d’Amérique qui ont défié la mort sont un rappel pour nous, les humains, de la nécessité de prendre conscience de notre impact sur l’environnement.

Aerial Acrobatics

Today, Canada’s athletes are competing in the aerials competition.  Skiers from across the country, like Travis Gerrits, Sabrina Guérin, and Melissa Corbo, will be dazzling spectators with flips, spins and jumps.

In our own backyards, wildlife is just as capable of these amazing stunts.  To honour their ability, we’ve chosen three medalists for their amazing acrobatics.


Bronze Medal Winner – Saw Whet Owl

 Brendan Lally
Brendan Lally

The Northern Saw Whet Owl is our bronze medalist, chosen for its amazing versatility and the way in which it can find prey.  Saw Whet Owls most commonly eat small animals like voles, mice and shrews, but can also catch small insects mid-air, like dragonflies, bees, and spiders.  Northern Saw Whet Owls live in areas with dense tree cover, meaning that they spend a lot of their time dodging branches and tree trunks to navigate and find prey.


Silver Medal Winner – Green Darner (Dragonfly)

 Mike Ostrowski
Mike Ostrowski

Any dragonfly could have qualified for the silver medal, as these species have an amazing aerial agility.  With their four wings placed in the center of their bodies, and their long, aerodynamic frames, the Green Darner can fly forwards or backwards, or hover in place.


Gold Medal Winner – Chimney Swift

 Jim McCulloch
Jim McCulloch

Our gold medalist for aerial acrobatics is the Chimney Swift.  Like all swifts, the Chimney Swift has long, slender wings that help it achieve abrupt changes in speed and flight direction.  Swifts can drink while flying, picking up water with their beaks as the skim over the surface of a lake.  They can also bathe mid-air, picking up water as they fly, and using it to clean their feathers.





The Swift uses its acrobatic skill to catch its main prey – flying insects.  While flying, Chimney Swifts can spot and catch dragonflies, bees, blackflies, mayflies, and even spiders on their webs!


Dragonflies like the Green Darner can find and catch mosquitoes mid-air, making them a welcome addition to your backyard.  It is important to remember that these animals, like many species in Canada, are safe to be around if you respect them. If you try to catch and trap a dragonfly, they may get stressed and try to bite.  If you let them be, they will enjoy your company, and the carbon dioxide you give off, as it this draws in mosquitoes for them to eat.

Long Distance Darlings

In the upcoming days, Canadian athletes will take part in various cross-country events ranging from Relay to Men’s 50 kilometre Mass Start. After learning how far Canadian wildlife travels, the distances these athletes cross won’t seem so impressive.


Bronze Medal- Caribou


Zak Richter/NPS
Zak Richter/NPS

Caribou deserve the bronze medal for travelling more than any other land animal. As many as half a million of these long distance runners will travel together for 5,000 kilometres in search of food and suitable breeding grounds each year.  The 2.4 million Caribou that live in Canada must trek through rocky terrain, water, and snow.


Silver Medal-Leatherback Sea Turtle



The Leatherback Sea Turtle is an experienced traveler who can swim 10,000 kilometres a year! They have even been known to cross the Atlantic Ocean and beyond from the east coast of Canada to Indonesia. As the world’s largest reptile they have a speed unmatched by many.  


Gold Medal- Monarch Butterfly


Derek Ramsey
Derek Ramsey

There is no cross-country journey more incredible than the Monarch Butterfly migration.  These bright orange butterflies travel by the millions more than 7,000 kilometres to meet in the forested hills of Mexico. Much like the relay events in cross-country skiing, a single Monarch won’t complete the entire migration. They will stop to lay eggs along the migration route, die, and their offspring will continue the journey. It can even take three or four generations of Monarch to reach their destination!




The origin of the biathlon can be traced back thousands of years to when hunters would track game on skis and kill prey using spears.  Today, the Olympic biathlon is less about survival as competitors’ self-discipline and instincts are tested.

In a climate as harsh as Canada’s, a special skill set and the will to survive is necessary. Let’s see how Canada’s toughest species battle through winter and live to see another summer.


Bronze Medal- Little Brown Bat


Photo by Bob Hamilton
Photo by Bob Hamilton

The Little Brown Bat deserves bronze for its extraordinary self-discipline while hibernating. In winter, these furry mammals can lower their heart rate from 210 beats per minute to 20. They are also known to go for 45 minutes without taking a breath.  As insectivores the Little Brown Bat is not able to feed all winter.  So, in late summer and early fall they catch up to 1,000 insects an hour in order to increase their weight 30 per cent for hibernation.


As impressive as these bats are, they are facing a new threat that is endangering their populations.


Silver Medal – Painted Turtle


Photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson
Photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson

There are three species of Painted Turtle in Canada – Western, Midland, and Eastern. All of them deserve the silver medal for their remarkable survival skills. Equipped with the ability to survive in temperatures as low as -9 ºC, the Painted Turtle buries itself in the mud at the bottom of lakes or ponds each winter. While buried, they completely stop breathing, only taking in small amounts of oxygen found in the mud through their skin. Their blood also goes through a biological process to become like anti-freeze and protect their internal tissues.


Gold Medal- Polar Bear


Photo by Steve Amstrup
Photo by Steve Amstrup

All Polar Bears are survival experts, but Polar Bear mothers are our gold medal winners! To ensure they have enough breast milk to feed their young, Polar Bear mothers gain 450 pounds in four months! To protect their cubs from the bitter winds of the North they build a den out of snowdrift. In early winter, the cubs are born and the mother polar bear feeds, protects and keeps them warm, not leaving the den until spring time.  If she were to leave during the winter months, the cubs would surely die.