Going Wild

…as in…wild animals!

For readers “not from around here,” I thought I would sum up all the animals you might see in Nova Scotia, common or rare. The number is limited, so there’s no need to leave any out!

Pilot Whales

I don’t live by the ocean (it’s a 20 minute drive away) and I don’t do any boating, so I don’t see big sea creatures.Β We have 4 kinds of common whales – humpback, finback, pilot and minke. I went whale watching once and got fogged out (a common occurrence), but someday I’ll try again. In offshore waters, we have 9 kinds of sharks, 4 kinds of dolphins and the harbour porpoise. None go anywhere near swimmers.

Harbour Seal

Sable Island

I have seen lots of harbour seals sunning themselves, but grey seals tend to congregate in more remote areas like Sable Island, which also has an unusual population of feral horses.


White-Tailed Deer

Black Bear

Our biggest land animals are moose, white-tailed deer and black bears. I have only seen moose in wildlife parks, fortunately, because they often collide with cars and cause fatalities. They have funny faces, a bit like camels! We only have one kind of deer, plentiful and beloved of hunters. And only one kind of bear, sometimes drawn to camp sites and garbage heaps for food, and always best avoided. I found a side-on picture of a bear to show that its face has a similar shape to a badger’s (we don’t have American badgers in this area).


Lynx with its tufty ears (has long tail)


There are 3 impressive wild cats throughout Canada, very stealthy and hard to spot: the bobcat, lynx and cougar (mountain lion). I believe I saw a lynx once, at night, but I keep being told how unlikely that would be. There are no proven sightings on the mainland, only in Cape Breton, but I don’t know what else it could have been!

Coyote. Controversially, Canada Goose jackets have coyote fur-trimmed hoods.

Red Fox, smaller than coyote

Nova Scotia has no wolves but we do have two dog relatives, coyotes and red foxes.

Raccoon – irresistibly cute!

Skunk – almost as cute as a raccoon!

Here are everyone’s favourite city dwellers, raccoons and skunks. My kid Link always sees raccoons scavenging for garbage in Toronto at night. They’re common here too – one day Rom and I woke to find one sitting on the back doorstep, and another time I heard the chilling shrieks of a raccoon fight. Outrageously cute but potentially vicious! I think skunks are cute, too, especially the young ones. But both raccoons and skunks can have rabies.


Porcupines and skunks are both feared because outdoor dogs tend to interact with them. Being sprayed by a skunk is wretched (piercing sulphurous smell which is oily and long-lasting) and having a porcupine tail swiped across your snout is even worse and results in much pain and a big vet bill. And no, a porcupine can’t throw its quills – they require direct contact.

Incidentally, on a road trip, porcupines and raccoons are the usual roadkill 😦

Red Squirrel

Chipmunks at the park run up to you and beg for food with this little face!

Onwards to everyone’s favourites unless you are stingy with your birdfeeders – squirrels and chipmunks. We have the small red squirrels which don’t much resemble the UK version. The larger and invasive grey/black squirrels have not arrived yet to take over the territory. When I was a kid, there were a few Northern flying squirrels around, but they are less common now. Chipmunks hang out in one of the parks near here – they don’t coexist well with squirrels, being much smaller and easier to drive away!

Snowshoe Hares

I was surprised to learn that the bunnies we see here are all snowshoe hares, not rabbits. They turn white when the days get short, regardless of snow.

Little Brown Bat

The bat population here has been decimated by white-nose disease; I can only hope they’ll make a comeback. The rest of our small rodent population consists of the usual mice, deer mice, rats, moles, voles and shrews. We have groundhogs (woodchucks) but only in farmland areas. We don’t have any other marmots, and we don’t have gophers, Prairie dogs, opossums or hedgehogs!




The last of our mammals are the water rodents and their cousins, beginning with the all-Canadian beaver. They are seen in most lakes and ponds, re-routing waterways and toppling trees. The muskrat is smaller and has a rattier tail. And we have river otters, which are not rodents but mustelids.

Short-tail weasels (stoats) change their coats like hares

Mink with fish


Fisher – I was always told they were fierce like wolverines!

In the same family, we have weasels, mink, and the less common martens and fishers.

I won’t let you get away without seeing our slippery, warty and crawly things!

Eastern Painted Turtle

In the summer, I see these turtles basking in the sun on flat rocks beside a pond. We also have snapping, Blanding and wood turtles.

Tree Frog

Green Frog

American Toad

In the Spring (not yet!), I can hear hundreds of Spring Peeper tree frogs chirping in the swamp. We have 6 other kinds of frogs, and one inoffensive kind of toad. I will never forget one rain-soaked early summer night in my teens when so many young frogs pelted about that it really seemed to be raining frogs!

Red-backed salamander

Red-Spotted Newt

Our other lovely amphibians are salamanders, including one newt species. We don’t have any lizards.

Even a child can handle a little green snake

And I will leave you with just one of our 5 harmless snakes.

None of these photos are mine. That would have taken me a lifetime!

Birds deserve their own post – I cannot guarantee posts on insects or fish!

What are the everyday animals near you?Β 


  1. Holy cow! I never thought Nova Scotia had so much wildlife–I kind of thought it would be too cold for many of these creatures aside from whales and seals. TIL!

    • Hi April, our climate is similar to New England, but even the Arctic has a range of wildlife like foxes, weasels, lemmings, hares and caribou. Plus narwhals πŸ™‚

  2. Once, when we were vacationing on Washington’s Pacific coast, we saw a group of bald eagles on the beach. They were on the sand, pretty close to us. We were excited about it – we’d never seen eagles that close before. Later that same day, we told a local shopkeeper about our eagle sighting. He gave us a blank look, which puzzled us. Later, we realized we’d give the same reaction to someone if they told us they’d seen pigeons in Downtown Seattle.

  3. What a great idea for a post!

    I’ve been whale watching a few times where I live — an amazing experience!

    Saltwater animals in my corner of the Pacific Northwest include whales (humpback, orca, minke, and gray), porpoise, seals, and sea otters. On land we have elk but not moose (moose are further north), white-tailed and black-tailed deer, bear (two kinds, I think), cougars, coyote, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunk, rabbits (though now I’m questioning whether they are actually hares), and opossum. There are river otters and muskrat in the tidal rivers.

    Salmon is the ‘big fish’ around here. For large birds, we have a resident eagle population, hawks, several varieties of owl, heron, and transient snow geese.

    (I had an “ack–!!” experience with the geese recently, which I wrote about here: http://mrsfever.com/2018/03/16/sign-from-above/ )

    • Ha – geese happen! We don’t have snow geese here. Most of us don’t like Canada geese much since they are over-abundant and they “foul” (or is that fowl!) parks and beaches. I would love to live somewhere I could spot sea otters!

  4. Coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions in S. California too! I wonder how large their individual territories are and how far they migrate to establish new ones? The first 2 come right into my community to hunt rabbits, squirrels and other ground rodents and, unfortunately, domestic cats and small dogs. I know there are deer further inland and of course ocean mammals of various kinds depending upon migration. Otherwise some kind of lizard, rattlesnakes and lots of hawks, crows and little brown birds of various kinds. Oddly, there is an American Bison herd on Catalina Island nearby but they were put there by humans.

    • I’m happy to do without rattlesnakes! I have seen some pleasant little lizards in my travels, though. Coyotes nab some cats and small dogs here, too 😦

  5. Oops, I forgot hummingbirds!

  6. Fiona

    It’s like they all won a competition for ‘most photogenic wildlife’! Cuteness overload! I’m a bit shocked that out of your entire list, there’s only 13 that I would have been able to name. Even reading over it again, I had to check the captions to remember what many of the animals were called. They seem very exotic to me! There’s also so many of them. We seem to have a far more restricted array of native wildlife here. Our locals would simply be kangaroos, wallabies, possums, flying foxes (in their thousands and thousands in the trees where I live) and echnidnas. I can’t get over the two animals that turn white in winter! πŸ™‚

    • Flying foxes, that’s fruit bats, right? Too cool! I looked up what animals can be found in Victoria and I was referred to Healsville Sanctuary so I will be making a side trip there on my someday trip to Melbourne! I tried to think of animals on my list that “everyone” has seen and they would be squirrels, hares, deer, foxes, raccoons, porcupines, and beavers.

  7. Margie in Toronto

    You’d think that living in a city of 3 million people that there wouldn’t be much room left for critters – but you’d be wrong! Toronto is so full of ravines, parks and conservation areas that wildlife abounds.
    I live in the western end of Toronto next to the Humber River, about a 12 minute bus ride to the Lake and 3 subway stops from High Park – so – at the moment we have a sign up by the entrance to my apt. building warning the dog owners to watch out for the skunk that has decided to nest near to the entry. We have heavy duty dumpsters outside to try and discourage the racoons but it’s a lost cause. Out my kitchen window I see squirrels, porcupines and now we even have opossums! There is a herd of deer that are often seen munching on flowers left at the cemetery up the road and I’ve seen a large red fox on more than one occasion. Coyotes are everywhere in the city and becoming a danger to small pets – and it is rumoured that the howling I hear late at night comes from the coy/wolf hybrid that has evolved – it’s quite spooky. Bunnies, muskrats and groundhogs are everywhere and I think I’ve seen otters down by the lake – but not sure.
    I see all kinds of birds including blue jays, blackbirds, cardinals & even an oriole or two – and of course, there is no escaping the geese! Down by the lake I’ve also seen heron, egrets and there is now quite the swan population. Up by me there is a hawk that I often see perched on top of a light standard and I hear owls and woodpeckers – but haven’t seen them often.
    Bears will sometimes wander down to the suburban areas just north of the city and cause a bit of a panic. No moose unless we go to Algonquin Park (thank God).
    I remember a boat ride out onto the ocean when I was in Cape Breton and seeing all kinds of seals and puffins!
    Great post!

    • It really is amazing how wildlife thrives in Toronto! I didn’t know opossums have expanded their range to your city πŸ™‚ Cool that you can see them and porcupines from where you are. It is hard to tell these days if one is smelling skunk or just really strong weed – just wait til summer 😦 Our migratory birds have returned and I’m enjoying the chorus, even though we had snow yesterday!

  8. Being from the northeastern US, I’ve probably seen more gray squirrels than any other wild animal in my lifetime (except pigeons probably). I had no idea they were an invasive species, but it makes sense because they are everywhere here!
    In our city in upstate New York, you can sometimes stumble on a racoon or skunk at night. There’s not too many wild animals super close to me, except at the state park on an island in the river, there’s a few families of deer. Then we have the odd moose or bear that gets lost and ends up here. Oh, and we had a coyote show up at our state museum last week!

    • Hi Norm, you probably have all the things we do, by lakes and streams and in the woods. I was kind of joking about grey squirrels being invasive, but they do drive the red ones away.

  9. We live in New England and have been debating a visit to Nova Scotia this summer. These beautiful pics just helped us make our decision. The wildlife pics are beautiful! πŸ™‚

  10. Jamie

    On our trip to England a few years ago the kids and I were so terribly excited to see squirrels! We have so many photos of them chasing each other up trees, or of their transparent tails. I would love to see some big cats in the wild. That would blow my mind!

    I had a similar “did I see that?” experience a few years ago. We were new to the mountains and I was driving home very late one night following a funeral in the city 5 hours away. I was exhausted to begin with as we were in the middle of selling our house and travelling back and forth for weeks on end, so when I came around a sweeping bend in the middle of nowhere at 11pm to see a deer with massive antlers in the bush ahead of me I couldn’t believe it! I continued around the bend and stopped in the next village to do a few laps around the car and star jumps on the roadside as I was convinced I was so tired I was seeing things! A few weeks later one of the local children told me there were wild deer around and I have seen another one on the roadside since – like, right on the roadside! I’m lucky I didn’t hit it!

    Even living in town I see regular rabbits, wombats, possums and kangaroos. I hit a kangaroo just a week or two ago about 2 mins out of town. I haven’t hit a kangaroo since before our youngest child was born (he is now 10 years old), so I think my time was up. I’ve actually been waiting for it to happen for at least 8 years now! We had a near miss with a snake two summers ago. It could have been a red-bellied black snakes, or a brown snake. I hear they can often look pretty dark. I’m hoping to not repeat that any time soon. Interestingly, we see lots of (introduced) foxes here in Australia, but hardly any dingoes, in my experience. We have some interesting lizards here, like the bog eye lizard. The corroboree frog is a cute one from our area you might like to look up.

    • I doubt if I will ever see a real/confirmed wild cat! Big risk of hitting deer on the road here, and even more so in the UK where Rom grew up. When a car meets a kangaroo, what usually happens? Kangaroo killed? Car wrecked? A quick search tells me they can be up to 90 kg. I wish I could see a wombat! Those corroboree frogs are mighty cute.

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