Hokkaido is home to many rare wildlife species, many of which are endemic to the area. Visitors can observe an array of wild animals throughout the year, and even join tours that combine wildlife observation with activities such as cruises and kayaking.


Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourism Association

Observe Wildlife all Year Round

In Hokkaido, visitors can catch glimpses of many rare animals that cannot be found in other parts of Japan. Wildlife observation tours, available throughout the year, give you a chance to see the following creatures:

Green season: Brown bears, orca, dolphins, whales, seals, and Japanese cranes
Winter: Japanese red-crowned cranes, Steller’s sea eagles, white-tailed eagles, whooper swans, seals

Year-round: Ezo deer, Ezo red foxes, pikas, Ezo squirrels, Ural owls, Blakiston’s fish owls.

Among the highlights of Hokkaido are brown bears,  red-crowned cranes and Steller’s sea eagles, all of which can be observed mainly in the World Natural Heritage sites of Shiretoko and Kushiro Marsh in eastern Hokkaido.

 

The brown bear is an iconic creature. Found only in Hokkaido, it is the largest land mammal in Japan. Similarly, the Japanese red-crowned crane also does not inhabit other parts of Japan and can be found almost exclusively in eastern Hokkaido. Winter is a great time to observe them, when their signature red crowns stand at a striking contrast to the stark white snowy backdrop.

The Ezo fox, Ezo deer, and Ezo squirrel are also endemic to Hokkaido, different from their counterparts on the main island of Japan. They can be seen in various parts of Hokkaido and are beloved for their adorable appearance.

The region also has a rich collection of birdwatching spots. Watch out for one of the largest eagles in Japan, the Steller’s sea eagle, flying to east Hokkaido in winter, as well as flocks of over 60,000 white-fronted geese in the Miyajima marshlands near Sapporo in spring and autumn. Teuri Island, off the northwestern coast of Hokkaido, is one of the world’s most important breeding grounds for seabirds. In spring and early summer, it’s packed with colonies of the common guillemot(ororon), the rhinoceros auklet, and other rare birds.

Wildlife x Recreational Activities

Wildlife observation tours are conducted in various parts of Hokkaido. Since encountering brown bears on land is dangerous, cruises in Shiretoko offer visitors a chance to observe them from a safe distance. There’s a very high probability of spotting one in the green season.

More than ten different species of whales can be seen between May and October if you take a nature cruise in Shiretoko Peninsula’s Rausu area. In June, there’s a high chance of observing orcas.

Many tours are combined with activities. From May to October, you can spot the endangered harbor seal from a sea kayak in Erimo Cape. They breed from May to June, so you might even see some cute seal pups.

From February to March, visitors have the rare opportunity to take a drift ice and birdwatching cruise in Rausu. You can feast your eyes on raptors like the Steller’s sea eagle and white-tailed eagle feeding on fish. At Kushiro Marsh, winter canoe tours let you enjoy the beautiful winter landscape at a leisurely pace as you look out for cranes and white-tailed eagles.

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