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