A Wild Tour of Timmins and Surrounding Area

by | Nov 21, 2022 | Nature and Outdoors, Other | 0 comments

On this 250-kilometre loop, you’ll see wildlife up close, pet numerous farm animals, and maybe even walk an alpaca.

Prepare to see Timmins region’s animals in an entirely new light. Learn where to see polar bears, elk and other wildlife. Get to know their stories and explore the wild origins of some domesticated farm animals on this road trip. Buckle up because this tour will be a wild ride.


Cedar Meadows Resort, Timmins

In the wilderness, most animals flee when people approach. However, Cedar Meadows Resort has many photo opportunities as you enjoy a tractor-drawn wagon ride on the daily Wildlife Tour. One of the animals you’ll see on your tour through the 100-acre park is the diminutive Fallow Deer, which may be related to the extinct Irish Elk (Megaloceros giganteus)!

Twelve thousand years of evolution changed this species: the Irish Elk’s antlers were the biggest ever at 3.6 metres (12 feet) across and measured more than 2 metres (6.5 feet) tall at the shoulder – more than twice their wee relative’s height. They may share the family tree, but giant elk do not have a cute, miniature physique nor keep the same white spots the little deer are born with, which lends a remarkably youthful look to the fallow deer herds.



One of Canada’s most majestic creatures, the Elk, was extirpated from Ontario. The native populations were locally extinct by the late 1800s, meaning the wildlife species no longer existed in the province but lived elsewhere in the country. However, with conservation efforts, they now number between 600 and 1000 animals, so in Ontario, there’s a slim chance of seeing wild ones.

Elk is one of the largest species in the deer family; adult bulls’ average weight is 330 kilograms (730 lbs), and they measure 1.5 metres (4.9 feet) tall at the shoulder. The elk cows stand about half a foot shorter than the males and weigh 90 kilograms (200 lbs) lighter, but they are no less impressive in size. Being up close to these animals will be something that will stay with you forever.

Tall fences surround the Wildlife Park to keep the animals safe. It’s not just for the Elk, which can leap 2.5 metres (8 feet) in the air, but for the Woods Bison, too, as they can run up to 55 kilometres per hour (34 mph) and jump 2 metres high (6 feet) to easily clear barriers.



The Woods Bison is the largest species in the Cedar Meadows Wildlife Park – males can weigh over 900 kilograms or 2000 lbs! They are the biggest terrestrial mammal in North America and take the prize for largest Bovid in the world. They are sometimes confused with their smaller relatives, the Plains Bison, but an easy way to tell you’re looking at the Woods Bison is their prominent and distinctive shoulder humps, and they do not form shaggy fur capes.

Cedar Meadows Wildlife Park also offers private tours if having a beautiful and personal experience is more your speed. Rain or shine; you can look forward to the tour; just remember, it’s first come, first served with limited space, so you may want to get your tickets early!



Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat, Cochrane

Approximately 150,000 years ago, brown bears living in cold landscapes started to change, and a new subspecies evolved: the polar bear. Their fur lost pigmentation, becoming hollow so that sunlight and heat are reflected down the hair’s shaft to their black skin. This dark epithelial layer enables the bears to absorb the sun’s warmth more effectively for survival in the frozen north.

Some polar bears, like Inukshuk, wouldn’t survive on their own. He was an orphaned cub found in Fort Severn, Alberta and spent the early part of his life at the Toronto Zoo. Eventually, he found a permanent home at the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat – the only facility in the world dedicated solely to caring for polar bears. Staff voted Inukshuk as “Bear Most Likely To Nap Anywhere,” including in the pool. And when he’s on solid ground? He likes sleeping on his belly, his front legs by his side, and his bum in the air.



Part of the life enrichment program is rotating which enclosure the bears are in, giving new stimuli and fresh polar bouquets to smell. The largest living carnivores on Earth are fed meals two to five times per day on an ever-changing timetable, so don’t plan your visit for when meals are served because there isn’t a set schedule. It’s best to have enough time for a full day at the habitat. If you’d like to watch some of these marine animals’ antics from home, you can occasionally see Inukshuk and the other two permanent residents, Ganuk and Henry, eat, sleep, swim and play on live TV.

While spotting polar bears in the wilderness has been on my travel wishlist for years, that particular journey is out of my reach. If you insist on seeing them in the wild, your voyage will take you to James Bay and Hudson Bay to search the sea ice looking for the bears – or make the trip to Churchill, Manitoba, for a tour.

In light of the distance needed to travel for wild viewings, I’d say a visit to the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat should be at the top of your must-see wildlife destinations.



Crazy Acres Farm, Iroquois Falls

Evidence suggests that horses were tamed and bred between 3500 and 3000 B.C, but the relationship may have started even earlier. One thing is for sure; humans were horseback riding by 3000 B.C, and there’s been a race to harness horsepower ever since. Seeing Canada’s wild horse herds would be a wonder, but there are none in Ontario, and that’s why this wild tour includes farm visits. So, while we’re in Timmins, a quiet horse ride in the woods is a great way to celebrate the deep connection between humans and horses that has spanned generations.

Here is a tour that takes a slow and steady pace; there is no race, and it’s a beginner-friendly activity that Crazy Acres Farm runs regularly. No experience is needed; just wear appropriate clothes and low-heeled boots because their shape works best in stirrups. Trail Rides happen rain or shine, so dress according to the weather – and how wet it might get because there are no refunds, even if you’re convinced you’ll melt during a downpour.



When you register to ride a Quarter Horse, you sign up for a hands-on experience. You’ll learn how to ready your horse, put on its tack before riding, and provide care afterward. Once everyone is ready, you’ll get riding lessons on a small trail, then follow your guide in the woods – or farm paths and fields, depending on the trail conditions. When the riding experience ends and you turn your horse to pasture, it’s time to enjoy the rest of the day and visit other animals on the petting farm.

Stay informed on the farm’s activities by checking Crazy Acres Farm’s Facebook for weekly events, where you can register for horse and pony rides, group activities and petting farm adventures. Bilingual guides are available, so make sure to specify French or English for your tour!



Dream Acres Alpaca Farm, Matheson

Since my first introduction to these super-clean creatures, I’ve wanted to learn more about alpacas. While researching this piece, I read about recent genetic tests that revealed the vicuña is the alpaca’s wild ancestors, which are still alive! The vicuña – whose wool is often called Andean Gold – are found in the wild, but you’ll need to book a trip to South America just to see the ancestral line of the alpaca – and relatives to llamas.

I was surprised to discover there are no wild alpacas anywhere in the world, even with their long history with humans. However, once I found out they were the domesticated descendants of the vicuña? It all made sense – alpacas were never a wild species.



Just like the vicuña and other camelids, alpacas spit. It’s their primary defence reaction to feeling distressed or threatened. Approaching from behind, making it feel cornered, and improper handling are all actions that would cause the otherwise adorable animal to transform into defensive mode.

Give alpacas the personal space and respect they deserve, and you’ll only see the docile creatures they are known to be – but don’t give them too much room; they need companions! Alpacas are social and happy with other species but thrive in their own kind’s presence.

To learn more and get close to these intelligent, fierce, soft-fibered animals, you must visit a farm like Dream Acres Alpaca Farm!


The Birds of Hersey Lake Conservation Area, Timmins

Here, the Wild Tour comes full circle, ending in Timmins, with the last stop at Hersey Lake Conservation Area to hunt for the only dinosaurs left on earth: birds. About 150 million years ago, the first birds evolved from theropods, a group of carnivorous, bipedal dinosaurs. While birds share the family tree with tyrannosaurus rex and the velociraptor, paleontologists think today’s avians descended from smaller theropods.

Several migratory species call this area home over the cold months, while many others remain in the region all year; look for winter birds on the shores of Hersey Lake and waterfowl when the water is open. Over 200 bird species have been spotted in Ontario over winter. I always see the usual suspects like chickadees, blue jays, and dark-eyed juncos, but I’m on the lookout for crossbills and Evening Grosbeak, both of which are on my lifer list – birds I have never seen before.

As winter walks quickly reveal that birdwatching is much easier when the leaves have fallen from the trees, the cold months are perfect for this type of outing. Walking the forest trails provides many opportunities to see numerous songbirds and other feathered creatures in the woods. Sure, there aren’t as many species as in the springtime or summer, but if you hone your bird spotting skills during the cold weather, you’ll have a much easier time during your warm season searches when the foliage obscures the feathered species.

If you love birding with others, stay tuned to Mattagami Region Conservation Area’s Facebook for event updates about the Holiday Bird Count, Winter Hiking Days and Forest Therapy.



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Are you looking for more ways to connect with animals? Watch for events on Heaven’s Harmony Farm Visits’ Facebook, and come spring, Hunta Bison Ranch in Cochrane will start its farm tours!

About Heidi Csernak

Heidi is a nature photographer who fell in love with Northeastern Ontario’s wild charms after her first time exploring the region. She likes to wander the trails at a snail’s pace, enjoys birdwatching - and lets the current carry her kayak to watch the scenery passing by. Fun Fact: Heidi has an insatiable hunger for hamburgers.