Alpacas, Moose, and Bears, Oh My!

By Turquoise Compass February 10, 2016

Northeastern Ontario is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and animal lovers, offering a plethora of wildlife adventures for the young and old. If you are wondering what to do with your family, there are three wildlife experiences not to be missed: Dream Acres Alpacas, the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat, and Cedar Meadows Wildlife Park.

Dream Acres Alpacas

If you are interested in meeting intriguingly inquisitive animals, then Dream Acres Alpacas is for you! Each time I step onto the 100 acre farm property, the nearby alpacas stop what they are doing, shoot a curious gaze in my direction and walk towards me. Suddenly I am surrounded by alpacas—I’m told that they want to know who I am and what I am doing. No two alpacas are alike—each has its own personality, hair colour, hair style, texture, and “look.” The up-close and personal approach used to raise the alpacas fosters their comfort around people. The alpacas love visitors and were thrilled when I stopped in to see them–the stars of the show. Fallen, the friendliest of them all, sniffed me from top to bottom and blessed me with her toothy kisses.

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After mingling with the alpacas, we had the opportunity to walk an alpaca along one of their farm trails through Northeastern Ontario’s boreal forest. Who would have thought you could walk an alpaca? Most of the boys are leash trained and are accustomed to walking with their handlers, Gary and Jo-Anne. As herd animals they like to be together—what an experience it was to be a part of the herd! Dream Acres Alpacas is a perfect winter family activity!

Dream Acres Alpacas also educates visitors about raising alpacas and the process involved in making alpaca fleece products. Did you know that alpaca fleece is hypoallergenic, non-irritating, and warmer than other wools? The majority of items are hand-woven and much love goes into making the products. Jo-Anne knows her animals so well that she can tell what products are made from which alpaca based on the texture and colour.

Dream Acres invites all those interested to visit their farm for a tour, to walk an alpaca, to snowshoe one of their many groomed trails, and to try out the warm and cozy alpaca fur products perfect for winter season. The multi-colored alpacas are eagerly awaiting your arrival.

Cedar Meadows Wildlife Park

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Have you ever thought about feeding a majestic moose? If so, you are not alone. Most Canadians have an innate fascination with the moose species. May your dreams come true at Cedar Meadows Wildlife Park. This vacation destination is known for its 175 acre property where you can experience a tractor-drawn wagon ride amidst Timmins’ best scenery to meet deer, elk, bison, and moose.

Rain or shine, this wildlife tour offers guests the perfect winter activity to escape the urban centre for a magical wildlife adventure where you can feed the friendly and curious animals. Cedar Meadows’ country wildlife tour provided me my first ever encounter with a moose—a beautiful female moose named Katrina. As soon as the wagon moves into the enclosure, Katrina came sauntering out of the forest with her head held high to see who came to visit her. I couldn’t believe my eyes—she came to see me!

Getting up close and personal with the many rare northern animals during the tour was just as exciting the third time around as it was my first. This time I was able to experience it with my family. It will never get old. Like a child in a candy store, I grabbed a handful of feed from the bucket and held my hand out over the wagon and a large elk greeted my hand with his slimy tongue. My childlike sense of wonder blossoms with each animal I encounter and the kid in me is released as I explore my way throughout the natural scenery.

The Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would get up close and personal with a polar bear on Canadian soil. Coming face to face with a polar pear is not something you’d want to experience, unless of course you knew you were safe from harm. If seeing a polar bear in person is on your wildlife wish list, then visiting Cochrane’s Polar Bear Habitat during a ‘Meet the Bears’ session is a must.

The Polar Bear Habitat is the only facility in the world dedicated strictly to polar bears, and is home to two furry residents—Ganuk and Henry. Visitors not only learn how the Habitat works to continually improve the standards for human care of polar bears that would not survive in the wild, but also about the various programs the Habitat participates in to further their goal of creating a sustainable polar bear future.

With Canada having 60% of the world’s population of polar bears and Ontario having the largest and most southern population, it only made sense to visit the Polar Bear Habitat as it’s close to the heart and home of Ontarians. When I visited the Habitat it was not snow covered, but the mild winter weather didn’t stop the bears from playing in their indoor and outdoor environment.

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Although food and toys are great motivators, the ambassadors of their species are not forced to perform and can choose whether or not they want to be in public view. Ganuk, a gigantic 1000 lb furry creature was happy to show off after receiving a delightful delicacy on a cool afternoon—a bright orange pumpkin. He played with the pumpkin as if it were a fragile orange ball, while slowly nibbling away at his special treat one bite at a time. The bear keeper on duty informed me that Ganuk would spend all afternoon occupying himself with his snack.

Ganuk is used to people observing him since he’s been living at the Polar Bear Habitat since 2012 and enjoys the attention. I’d like to think that Ganuk was showing off just for me, but he’s known to entertain his spectators. Ganuk rolled around with his precious pumpkin presenting it to his onlookers as if it was an award. His pristine white fur was slightly blue on one side from his previous painting session days prior. The Habitat provides daily enrichment to challenge and keep the bears amused. Looks to me like Ganuk is the one providing amusement—I was happy to look from a distance at the beautifully hilarious, yet slightly frightening big fella.

Regardless of my age, I will always enjoy making a new furry friend. From walking an alpaca, feeding moose, elk, and bison, to watching a polar bear eat a snack, these wildlife gems should be added to your bucket list.

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