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Stellar Jay by Bird Atlas

Who is Your Wildlife Companion In British Columbia?

Pack the Car | Mentalfloss/Pinterest

Have you ever thought about who your camping companions really are? No, I don’t mean the ones who helped you pack for the trip and set up camp – I mean your wildlife companions.  Have you ever just sat quietly for 60 seconds and listened?  I mean really, really listened to all that you hear in that brief moment of time.  Take a moment to take in the sounds, sights, and smells of a campsite.  This could make a great camping activity for the whole family, by making it a family tradition where once a day the whole family sits in silence for just 60 seconds (at different times each day) and make a note of all that you hear (If you have children, this could be a segway to a future school project during the school year).

Stellar Jay | Bird Atlas

Most times, you will hear a barking dog, a crow, a raven or even the bright blue Stellar Jays who makes harsh, nasally chirping sounds – I refer to them as the food thieves of the camp, so don’t leave that snack bowl unattended as one in a bowl means a whole flock is sure to follow, one by one.   You may even see the gray and black Whiskey Jacks – aka the Canada Jay, Robins, Geese, Owls, Eagles as well as seagulls (depending on your location) but there are others lurking in the treed forest you are calling home for a few days each year. 

Whiskey Jack | Canadian National Geographic

Now that we have covered the feathered ones, what about the ones you can see?  Most of us can say we have seen a squirrel or chipmunk as well as a raccoon while we camp, possibly even a deer, or you’ve been lucky enough to see a bear.  But have you really looked? What others are out there?  You might have even seen a ground squirrel – you know, they are the ones that are perfectly perched on their hind legs letting out a short squeak now and then. What about the ones that scurry along every night while you sleep? Busy out there rummaging through everything to get every last morsel that was dropped on the ground – they are the deer mice – the ones with the bulging eyes.  I had one enter my RV just this past summer – so my tip to you is that you make sure everything is sealed in airtight containers to lessen the attraction via their nose!  A bowl of pistachios left on my counter was the attractant.  And if you camp in tents, never snack in the tent either.

Ground Squirrel at Manning Park | Jozzie Productions

What about the ones you don’t immediately see?  Like ants, spiders, worms, and flies?  Then there are those pesky flying insects like mosquitoes, noseeums, black flies, and the Crane Fly better known as Leather Jackets (aka Daddy Long Legs or Mosquito Hawks) and an infestation that hit some parks in British Columbia in the summer of ‘22, where we saw large numbers of the yellow Tussock Moth, which feed on the needles of the Douglas Fir and can decimate a forest in a year and a half.

Tussock Moth | The Canadian Press

The next time you are out camping – take a minute (we know you have it) to just sit, relax and try to detect all the wonderful and not so wonderful creatures of the day and into the night. 

Sounds of Camping Sign | PoMoDee

For places to camp in British Columbia go to Camping & RVing BC Camping Map.

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British Columbia’s Wildlife A Sight to Behold

British Columbia is known for its magnificent mountains, pristine lakes, lush green forests and the Pacific Ocean. It’s therefore not surprising that residing within this bountiful environment are well over 1,000 different species of wildlife including hundreds of birds and fish, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles.

Big Horn Sheep
Big Horn Sheep

Wildlife viewing continues to grow in popularity. Viewing platforms have been installed in some of the more popular areas but often you will see wildlife as you drive BC’s highways. In the spring when the grass is sprouting, black bears can be found grazing along the roadside verges and deer have a propensity to dart across any road in every corner of the province, so drivers should beware.

Mountain goats, big horn sheep, elk and caribou are seen in some areas of the province. In remoter regions are plains bison and grizzly bears. Moose can be spotted in the mountains in Manning Park, the Rockies, and Northern British Columbia.  The aptly named Moose Valley Provincial Park near 100 Mile House in the Cariboo and Bowron Lake Provincial Park are well-known for moose viewing. And if you are very lucky you may even glimpse the white spirit bear, also called the Kermode bear, which lives in the coastal mountain ranges.

Heron Photo: Province of BC
Heron | Province of BC

For bird lovers, many species reside in British Columbia, either year-round or during the warmer seasons. In the spring and fall, birders line pathways and fields photographing the thousands of birds on their migration routes. The Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Delta is a popular viewing area in the south-west area of the province. Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area and the Columbia Wetlands, both in the Kootenay Rockies, offer waterfowl viewing in abundance. There is a bird trail in the Okanagan and many of the lakes in the Cariboo and Northern BC are home to well-known as well as rarely seen bird species.

Eagles and hawks, trumpeter swans, waterfowl, songbirds, herons and cranes, and the well-known Canadian loon with its recognizable call are just a few of the species seen throughout BC. Bald eagles enjoy feasting on salmon and are often found soaring through the skies in coastal areas. One of the most popular places to find bald eagles is on the Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler in Brackendale, near Squamish.

Killer whales (orcas), grey whales and sea lions are just some of the marine life found in and around British Columbia’s Pacific coastline, with popular whale watching tours offering excellent viewing opportunities during April to October.

Mountain Goat Photo: Province of BC
Mountain Goat | Province of BC

Tips on Viewing Wildlife

  • Use a viewing guide
  • Understand when you are most likely to see wild animals – time of day, time of year
  • Be patient and quiet – it could take a while
  • Wear proper clothing and protect your skin from insects and the heat of the sun
  • Stay on designated roads and trails to avoid damaging the vegetation
  • Respect private property

Wildlife Viewing Safety

  • View wildlife from a distance to avoid scaring the animals. These are wild animals and some can be dangerous
  • Don’t approach young animals as their protective mothers will be nearby
  • Control pets
  • Do not feed wildlife
  • Pay attention to posted notices and warnings about wildlife that may be in the area
  • Deer and other wildlife can be found on BC’s roads and highways, so be alert and take care
Black Bear Northern BC 5051
Black Bear

Other Useful Information

Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resources is an excellent resource for information on viewing wildlife in BC. They provide brochures of the province’s regions, as well as specific areas within those regions, some communities, bird checklists, and more. You can review and download brochures from Wildlife Viewing Publications.

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The BC Nature Guide is published by BC Nature Federation of BC Naturalists. It provides viewing maps as well as tips on viewing wildlife in BC.

The BC Parks Bear safety guide offers tips on how to be ‘bear safe’.

Best Places to Spot Wildlife in British Columbia – Travel Blog

Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resources Wildlife Viewing in BC

BC Nature

Read Blogs on the Camping & RV in BC website that include wildlife spotted on visitors’ travels in British Columbia.

For places to camp in British Columbia go to the Camping Map

Share your BC camping and travel photos using hashtag #campinbc, #explorebc, #bcnice

It’s always a great day to #campinbc

Plan a Memorable Vacation in BC’s Stunning Telegraph Cove and the Broughton Archipelago

Wildlife lovers rejoice! Telegraph Cove and the Broughton Archipelago are an ideal destination if your perfect holiday includes a chance of spotting whales, bears, eagles, and more.

Swimming in the Burdwood Group Islands | Kim Campbell-Walker
Swimming in the Burdwood Group Islands | Kim Campbell-Walker

Broughton Archipelago Provincial Park, sandwiched between Northern Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia, is certainly in contention for one of the most beautiful parts of the province. With towering cliffs, midden beaches, rocky islets, and protected passageways through lushly forested islands, the Broughton Archipelago makes up the largest marine park in British Columbia. The park, established in 1992, is a mecca for boaters, and it is known worldwide as a premier kayaking destination. When we were in the Broughton’s, we spoke with an experienced kayaker who had flown from South Africa, purchased a kayak off Craigslist in Vancouver, rented fishing equipment, and planned to spend five nights (longer if he could stretch his food by catching dinner!) in what he considered one of the world’s best kayaking areas.

The marine park makes up only part of the area considered the Broughton Archipelago. To start our trip, we took an hour-long water taxi from Telegraph Cove to the Burdwood Group – a collection of small islands at the meeting point of Fife Sound, Tribune Channel, and Penphrase Passage. When we landed on the main group site in the Burdwoods, it was like we had been transported to a tropical island. The area was established as a BC Conservancy in 2009 in order to protect both aquatic and forest habitats as well as sites of cultural significance in the traditional territories of the Mamalilikulla-Qwe’Qwa’Sot’Em First Nations, including the shell midden beach on which we landed. (Note: Since this trip the Burdwood Group has been closed for camping and there are now specific sites approved for camping in Mamalilikulla Territory. BC Marine Trails has good information available. Check here for details.)

Echo Bay Marine Park | Kim Campbell-Walker
Echo Bay Marine Park | Kim Campbell-Walker

An afternoon paddle had us marvelling at Deep Sea Bluff – a towering cliff on mainland British Columbia near where Captain George Vancouver reportedly anchored during his exploration of the BC coast in 1793. When we arrived at the bluffs, the tide was low and the barnacle-covered intertidal zone (in this case, entirely vertical) was taller than me. After the mandatory photo “touching the mainland” we headed back to camp. Our two days in the Burdwood Group consisted of circumnavigating small islands, exploring the rather desolate feeling Echo Bay Marine Park – complete with a collapsing community recreation centre and a picturesque but condemned wharf – and visiting the fascinating personal museum collection of Billy Proctor, a lifelong resident of the Broughton Archipelago and passionate beachcomber, fisherman, and logger. Bring your wallet and pick up a copy of one of Billy’s books for a fascinating read about the Broughtons.

Billy Proctor's Museum | Kim Campbell-Walker
Billy Proctor’s Museum | Kim Campbell-Walker

After two days in what can only be described as beachfront paradise, we packed up and headed for the ominously named Insect Island – hoping all the while that the name had nothing to do with mosquitos! After a mostly mosquito-free night in a lovely campground (despite the decidedly uphill hike to the tenting area), we continued our travels by paddling down Misty Passage, past Monday Anchorage, through the Coach Islets, to Sedge Island. At this point, so inspired by the wide-open vistas we had seen for most of the day and not wanting to camp on the rather boxed in Sedge Island campsite, we carried on to the spectacular White Cliff Islets – one of my favourite locations from the entire trip. These tiny rock islets on the edge of Queen Charlotte Strait are nothing short of spectacular. When we visited, the few trees on the islets were filled with keen-eyed eagles and fish darted through the kelp beds below us as we paddled along.

Flower Island | Kim Campbell-Walker
Flower Island | Kim Campbell-Walker

After exploring the islets, we headed for the campsite on nearby Owl Island. Perfectly placed on the island, the campground offers a protected bay with morning sun for launching and a short trail through the trees to a gorgeous sunset viewing beach. A sunset paddle around the aptly named Fire Island was spectacular as the sun sank below the horizon. One of the best parts of kayaking is the connection immediately forged with nature and your campground compatriots.  At the recommendation of some fellow kayakers, the next day we headed for Flower Island where, we were told, we “wouldn’t be able to sleep because of the whales.”

Owl Island Sunset | Kim Campbell-Walker
Owl Island Sunset | Kim Campbell-Walker

The paddle from Owl to Flower was another gorgeous day on the water. Once we passed Bold Head on Swanson Island it became apparent that Blackfish Sound was indeed where the whales congregate. The four-or-so kilometre paddle along Swanson Island was a non-stop show of whale blows, with our heads constantly swivelling to try and catch sight of the whales. Just after arriving at Flower Island we were treated to one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen – a nearly five-minute performance of a humpback whale blowing and slapping its tail (known as tail lobbing) just offshore. The marine activity carried on throughout the evening with appearances from dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, humpback whales, and orcas. It was truly one of the best wildlife experiences of my life.

In the morning we paddled back to Telegraph Cove, completing our journey from the mainland back to Vancouver Island. Telegraph Cove is the perfect launching point for a kayak trip to the Broughtons, and there are numerous tour operators on the North Island who provide guided trips. If kayaking is not your speed, consider a trip with Prince of Whales Whale Watching and Wildlife Adventures or spend a full day observing grizzly bears in Knight Inlet with Tide Rip Grizzly Adventures.

Whale Interpretive Centre | Kim Campbell-Walker
Whale Interpretive Centre | Kim Campbell-Walker

Telegraph Cove is also a great destination in its own right. The community balloons in population during the summer months and as such, it is one of the most tourist-focused destinations on the North Island. Several coffee shops provide drinks and snacks, a pub on the pier offers plenty of choices including BBQ salmon dinners, and the excellent Whale Interpretive Centre is a must-visit for those wanting to know more about the creatures that call the Johnstone Strait home. Telegraph Cove Resort Forest Campground offers camping and moorage.

Telegraph Cove | Kim Campbell-Walker
Telegraph Cove | Kim Campbell-Walker

Telegraph Cove is a first-class destination for those wishing to get in touch with nature. From self-guided trips for experienced kayakers to afternoon whale watching excursions, the Broughton Archipelago is sure to delight your whole family.

TIP: If you find this blog interesting why not subscribe to the enewsletter and never miss another story!

For places to camp in British Columbia go to Camping & RVing BC Camping Map.

Share your BC travel and camping photos using the hashtag #CampinBC, #explorebc

It’s always a great day to #campinbc

Published: September 13th, 2018

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