Wild and Free: A Guide to Wildlife in Terra Nova National Park

This travel article is brought to you in collaboration with our friends at Parks Canada.

No matter where you’ve come from or how old you are, a chance encounter with an inquisitive otter or a busy beaver is sure to make your day. Terra Nova National Park is a natural playground, filled with unique, local plants and animals. Viewing opportunities abound!

Seeing wildlife can’t be guaranteed, of course, because these animals are free to come and go as they please. The unknown is part of the thrill. However, this guide will give you some insight into the best places for spotting wildlife at some of Terra Nova’s most scenic spots.

First Things First:  Let Wildlife Be Wild

 If you’re lucky enough to encounter wildlife while visiting Terra Nova remember:

  • Always keep your distance
  • Under no circumstances should you feed the animals
  • Enjoy the moment in a respectful manner and avoid interfering with their behaviour

Terra Nova is home to black bears, eastern coyotes, and other medium-sized mammals. Parks Canada makes a concerted effort to keep the animals and humans apart to ensure their mutual safety. In the unlikely event you see one of these animals, follow these tips, and report the sighting to a member of staff.

Visit a Sanctuary for the Birds

Greater Yellowlegs call this place home

Newman Sound is one of the sheltered coastal spots, which make Terra Nova a great base for exploring the ocean and forest. Inner Newman Sound is a designated migratory bird sanctuary offering a great chance to see interesting shorebirds like Greater Yellowlegs—or “Twillick” for those of you cultivating your local vocabulary.

Where to go: Take Gowiddy Path from the Visitor Centre. Keep right toward the coast when you come to a fork in the trail and you’ll come to a boardwalk and benches. A perfect spot to explore or sit and watch. From there you can return to the Visitor Centre or continue along the rest of the 8 km looped trail.

Meet the Beavers

It's not hard to see where the expression "busy as a beaver" came from

With their paddle tails, buckteeth, and building skills, beavers are a pretty remarkable creature! Seeing a beaver lodge is a sight in and of itself; seeing a real live beaver going about its business is even more amazing.

Where to go: Take the Campground Trail via the entrance near the Newman Sound Kiosk towards Big Brook to see a beaver lodge and maybe its residents! In recent years, beaver activity is also picking up at Southwest Arm too. Little hint: beavers are most active at dusk and early morning.

Look for Bald Eagles

A bald eagle catches its dinner

The coastal forest of Terra Nova is a favourite home for majestic bald eagles—the largest bird of prey found locally. There are multiple nesting pairs in the park; considering the species’ nest-loyalty it makes for good chances of seeing them. It’s certainly not uncommon to see these birds perched on trees, cliffs, or soaring above the park, but some places present good chances of spotting eagles.

Where to go: Minchin’s Cove, either via a boat from the Visitor Centre to hike up to Mount Stamford (9.5 km there and back, rated moderate-to-difficult) or along the Outport Trail (a multi-day hike totalling 35 km in return—reserve backcountry sites at Minchin’s Cove or South Broad Cove).

Watch the Skies for Bats

Little brown bat. Photo by Michael Blackwood.

Now we know bats can make people nervous, but they are a vitally important part of an ecosystem. So if you see one, that’s a great sign! Terra Nova has the distinction of being Newfoundland’s only Dark Sky Preserve. Darkness not only allows for amazing stargazing, but also is extremely important for nature to flourish, like the Little Brown Bats, and endangered species native to the province commonly found in Terra Nova. Bats are not interested in people and prefer to stay in flight; in fact, you might only catch a glimpse of them flitting around while catching flies.

Where to go: Malady Head Campground. With semi-secluded sites for tents, trailers, and also Ôasis and oTENTiks, as well as individual fire pits, this is a wonderful place to enjoy the beauty of the night. Keep your eyes up, and you may see bats darting among the trees.

Find Playful Otters

The otters here are actually river otters

Does any creature in nature have more fun than the otter? We don’t think so! These speedy little critters can be hard to spot, but for your best chance, explore the coast at dawn. Despite their coastal habitat, these otters are actually river otters.

 And if you don’t see an otter, dawn in Terra Nova is worth getting out of bed for anyway.

Where to go: The Coastal Trail is one of the better-known trails for spotting otters. At 9.5 km there and back, you’ll enjoy some moderate climbs and great shoreline.   

See Jellyfish and Sea Life

Jellyfish galore! Photo by Jessie Brinkman Evans

The sheltered inlets of Terra Nova are excellent for coastal kayaking. Jellyfish are abundant in these waters, including moon jellies and lion’s mane jellyfish that can grow to impressive sizes. You’ll likely see other sea life as well, and as with all creatures, it’s best to keep your hands to yourself.

Where to go: Get out paddling! Great launch points are near the causeway by Malady Head Campground or Southwest Arm day-use area. Sea kayaking tours operators also offer tours from the Visitor Centre.

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