Nature

Canada – The far North

Synopsis

Canada is a vast country, covering almost ten million square kilometers. It has the largest intact forest on the planet, more than two million lakes and rivers and the longest coastline anywhere on Earth.

It’s also home to some of the world’s most astonishing wildlife, such as Canada lynx, great grey owls, northern flying squirrels, star-nosed moles, coastal wolves, sea otters, caribou, arctic foxes and polar bears.

It’s the middle of Winter in the vast boreal forests that cover much of central Canada. A Canada lynx hunts a snowshoe hare in an age-old duel, a pack of wolves work together to strategically drive a herd of caribou from a frozen lake into deep forest snow, a great grey owl uses its impeccable hearing to locate a red-backed vole, a beaver shares its lodge with a handy muskrat, and northern flying squirrels find collective warmth by snuggling together in tree holes. Survival here is all about helping one another, being in tune with the environment, and knowing when to act.

As Spring arrives, and waters flow again, beavers create whole riverine environments through their tree-felling and dam building. And in the waterways lives an extreme specialist, the star-nosed mole, a voracious hunter who uses her 22 nose tendrils and bubble-blowing to detect prey.

As Canada warms, its Pacific and Atlantic coastal fringes come alive. Among the blossoming kelp forests a male sea otter goes hunting for a huge Pacific clam or ‘geoduck’. On a remote island, a pack of wolves hunt and feed on salmon, and use other species to help them get to the best bits. And in Canada’s Bay of Fundy, with the most extreme tides on Earth, vast flocks of semipalmated sandpipers time their arrival to feed on mating mud shrimps. But they must watch out for peregrine falcons.

In the final act of the film, we journey into Canada’s tundra and Arctic. Life here survives at the limits of existence, with greater physical challenges and narrower time windows, made even more difficult because of climate change.

But if you can get it right, and are ready to adapt, there are big rewards.

On a free-flowing river in the Yukon with underground springs, grizzly bears hunt salmon late into the season and grow massive. On sea ice off Newfoundland, a harp seal mother teaches her newborn pup how to swim for the first time. On the tundra, a pair of arctic foxes steal and bury snow geese eggs as fast as they can for their fast-growing pups. And in the High Arctic, on open water summer shores, polar bears are forced to deploy totally new hunting strategies to try and catch beluga whales.