Nature Canada

6 Tips for Spotting Nocturnal Creatures

Not all creatures are ones that you can spot during the day. In fact, there are many species you can find at night that are just as fascinating, including great honed owls, barn owls, foxes, rabbits, and other small mammals. 

Going out and exploring Canada’s nocturnal creatures can lead to some interesting nature stories and sightings! If you interested in going on (or organizing your own) night nature walk, check out the following tips to improve your experience: 

1. Dress Warmly

Often times you’ll be standing still listening for creature noises or stopping to examine an animal you’ve come across. Don’t underestimate the drop in temperature during the night.

Image of a Boreal Owl

2. Bring Flashlights, but use them sparingly

Flashlights will not harm nocturnal creatures, but they will scare them off. It’s often best to let your eyes adjust to the natural light reflected by the moon than it is to use battery powered lights.

3. Bring a recorded owl call

Recorded owl calls are a great way to induce a barn or screech owl to return a call, but use them sparingly as owls will assume a potential rival is infringing on their territory and you don’t want to disturb them too much! Also remember to start with the calls of the smallest owl first (such as a Saw-whet Owl) and work your way up to the larger owls (such as a Great Grey Owl) as even small owls will be intimated by the presumed presence of the large owls and will fall silent.

4. Be as quiet as you can

In the dark, listening to creatures can be as important (and rewarding) as seeing them with your eyes. Naturalists are just as happy to hear an owl as they are to see one. However, you do stand a greater chance of seeing animals if you’re not making a lot of noise.

5. Have people look in different directions

Organize your group so that your eyes cover as much of the surrounding area as possible. A sighting is a sighting whether it’s done by you or someone else!

6. Know the trails before heading out

The last thing you want is to be lost out on the trails in the middle of night. Make sure you have prior knowledge of the pathways and always know how to get back to the entrance. Bring a map, if possible, and ensure you have some a cellphone in case of an emergency.


Night time nature walks can be very rewarding but should be practiced with extreme caution. Be sure to follow the tips above and avoid going alone. Each person who goes on a night time walk should have their own light even if they are not all turned on during the journey and remember to be respectful–nocturnal creatures are sensitive to light and might not be receptive to your well-intended presence. 

Stay safe and don’t forget to share your pictures through our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)! Stay tuned for more nature updates, subscribe to our email updates here to keep up with our work.  

Want to Help?

Canada’s wilderness is the world’s envy. It’s our duty to keep our true north strong and green.