• The grizzly bear (27 per cent of the vote) lost to both the fox (33 per cent) and the pine marten (40 per cent).

Bears and other apex predators are magazine cover attention grabbers, say the circulation experts who see all the newsstand numbers. Canadian Geographic likes fronting grizzlies, polar bears and wolves as much as Smithsonian likes tigers and lions (see their covers from February and June 2015, for example). Whether prowling currently or long extinct, powerful and potentially dangerous megafauna sells.

So it’s refreshing to see smaller, yet no less iconic, Canadian species challenge that doctrine. A few thousand Canadian Geographic readers cast votes for the cover of the gorgeous Best Wildlife Photography 2016 special issue, and while no species ran away with the contest, the rather contemplative grizzly bear (27 per cent of the vote) lost to both the coldblooded-looking fox (33 per cent) and the inquisitive pine marten (40 per cent).

Maybe it’s all in the look (the fox and marten are making excellent eye contact), but voter comments also reflect the wildlife enthusiast’s love for the unusual, the rarely seen — regardless of size and raw power. “I chose a mammal (the pine marten) that rarely receives exposure and deserves to be better known,” says one commenter. “My choice is the ‘less standard’ animal,” says another.

We won’t argue with that, say publisher Gilles Gagnier and circulation experts Nathalie Cuerrier and Scott Bullock. As ever, the pages of Canadian Geographic’s new wildlife photography collector’s edition hold “All creatures, great and small” — everything from whales to ants and the classic carnivores in between — but readers were ready to nominate a pair of new species for the top front-and-back-cover honours.

If you don’t already receive our cover vote email but want to, simply click here and sign up for the Canadian Geographic newsletter. And be sure to pick up a copy of the Best Wildlife Photography 2016 issue. It lands on newsstands Sept. 7.