Of the dozen species that frequent the estuary, half are on the list of species at risk in Canada. Strict rules apply to operating boats in the presence of marine mammals (boats are generally prohibited from coming within 200 m, or 650 ft., of an animal).

Wildlife observation

Vibrant and abundant!

Photo. From the Canada goose to the great blue heron, from the moose to the humpback whale, more than 650 animal species—including 200 fish and 325 bird species—inhabit Québec’s carefully preserved territory. Many of these species can be seen in the wilderness or by chance during a stroll through the forest, say, in one of Québec’s national parks or wildlife reserves.

The same goes for marine mammals, including whales—the St. Lawrence Estuary is teeming with them—migratory birds and numerous land mammals, such as cervids (white-tailed deer, moose, caribou and more), bears and beavers.

Whale watchingForest dwellersBird watching

Whale watching

Set out to meet the giants of the sea!

PhotoWatching a whale burst through the water's surface is a fascinating and unforgettable sight. This exceptional experience can be yours on the St. Lawrence River! Québec is one of the few places in the world where you can see such a wide variety of large sea mammals (13 species in all). They are attracted by the river's wealth of shellfish, which they feast on... and by its impressive depth!

Québec's cetacean population

PhotoThe blue whale, the most imposing animal on Earth, lives in the waters of the St. Lawrence. This gargantuan mammal can attain 25 m (82 ft.) in length! The second-largest cetacean, the fin whale, can be found here as well. Numerous species of rorqual can also be seen in the river, including the humpback whale, known for its exuberant leaps through the air. In addition to these two giants, you might see porpoises and dolphins (especially in the gulf). Lastly, you will probably catch a flash of white floating on the waves: these are belugas, the small arctic whales that live in the St. Lawrence year-round. About 1,000 belugas inhabit the river, however, they are an endangered species.

Drift towards the whales

Tadoussac, ManicouaganMany ports in the St. Lawrence estuary and gulf, and on the river's north and south shores, offer whale watching excursions daily from May to October on board boats of every size. The preferred spots for cetaceans are the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park (with numerous departures from Tadoussac, Baie-Sainte-Catherine, Rivière-du-Loup and Trois-Pistoles), the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve of Canada (Duplessis) and the Forillon National Park of Canada, in the Gaspésie. Québec is known for its knowledgeable interpretation guides on these cruises, who provide information not only on the whales, but on their habitat and other ecotourism topics as well.

Observing from dry land

In some spots, the river is so deep near the shore that you can regularly see whales without leaving the shoreline. Places where this is possible include the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord, Cap-de-Bon-Désir (Bergeronnes), two sites in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, and Pointe des Monts (Duplessis). To be sure you don't miss a thing, take a trip along the Whale Route!

Seals and whitecoats on the horizon

Parc national du Bic, Bas-Saint-LaurentIn addition to large cetaceans, you can see seals in the river. They like to lounge about on the rocks along the estuary and the gulf, and you can watch them with a telescope from the shores or during a boat or sea kayaking excursion, accompanied by a qualified guide who will ensure your safety (the river's current can be dangerous). Observing whitecoats off the Îles-de-la-Madeleine remains one of the most amazing sights. Towards the end of the winter, hundreds of thousands of seals arrive from Greenland, making their home on the pack ice for a few weeks in order to give birth to and feed their young. Excursions are organized to observe this phenomenon—don't miss this unique adventure!

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