Wildlife You Can Spot on Vancouver Island
Posted by Tom Westley on
There is no shortage of amazing wildlife on Vancouver Island. People come from afar to not only enjoy the tranquil scenery, but also to see animals in their natural habitat. There are many to be seen just walking around, or you can take one of many different wildlife tours.
While the summer might be the best time to see the most wildlife, as there is the salmon run which includes orcas, bald eagles, wolves, and bears chasing them, throughout the year there are some great animals to be seen. Here are just a few that you could encounter while staying at Salish.
Birds Birds Birds
Within the bays and seashores and forests, there are a wide variety of birds on Vancouver Island, all offering a splendid scene to those who are fascinated with these flying creatures. Year-round, resident bird species include the bald eagle, harlequin duck, great blue heron, pigeon guillemot, rhinoceros auklet, Wilson’s phalarope, and the black oystercatcher.
Many species of birds migrating up and down the Pacific Coast often congregate in estuaries on the Island. Nearby Salish there is the Esquimalt Lagoon sanctuary which offers a space for waterbirds to feed and rest. The shallow tidal waters of the lagoon support thousands of waterfowl from October through May, making this one of the top birding spots in the region.
For some more colourful and exotic birds, go to Beacon Hill Park or Hatley Castle Gardens to spot some peacocks!
Experience a Salmon Spawning
There’s a special part of nature you can witness at certain parts of the year called the “salmon spawning.” This is when salmon gather to mate at their place of origin. While this in itself is a phenomenon to behold, the big event is that they attract bald eagles.
These eagles have a large hooked beak and a majestic wingspan. They’re characteristic of birds of prey in general and are difficult to spot on most days. But when a salmon spawning takes place, during low tide when the salmon are exposed, eagles - being the opportunistic feeders that they are - will pluck the salmon from the rivers. It’s a great time to catch them in action and get a great photo as well!
Head to Goldstream Park during the salmon run (about July to October) to watch them in all their splendour.
While there aren’t really any bears in the city (at least none that should be there long-term), you can find them farther up Vancouver Island.
There are special guided forest walks you can take to catch sight of the bears you’re looking to see. Enjoy seeing them in their natural habitat and safely while you take a leisurely walk in the woods with an experienced hiker. It might be the first time you’re seeing a bear or you may be an experienced nature viewer, but either way this is a tour you won’t forget after your vacation is over!
If you want to venture out on your own for a hike to find bears, ensure you stay bear-aware. Bears are naturally afraid of humans, so attacks are extremely rare - but they can happen. The best prevention of an incident is to try to avoid all contact. Bears typically defend their personal space if they feel you are intruding, although the extent of this space can vary with each bear and each situation.
The most important things to remember are never to feed a bear, remain calm, and respect the bear! They are beautiful creatures, but not one you want to accidentally stumble upon.
The Elusive Wolf
Wolves live all over British Columbia, but aren’t seen often by humans. On the Island we have a subspecies of the mainland grey wolf. Although the majority of the wolves here are found in the uninhabited northern coastal portions of the island, they do frequent the west coast, as is evident in encounters, and have been spotted as far south as Port Renfrew.
They are smart and social, so if you see one on a trail in the wild, it may not be a stroke of luck. These animals guard their resources and territory fiercely. If you see one, the best thing to do is to try and scare it away. For this reason, there are no tours to try and find this elusive creature.
There are two species of otters on the Island, Sea Otters and River Otters. The North American River Otter can be found in many places around Vancouver Island. You may see them in spots like Esquimalt Harbour and Lagoon, Telegraph Cove, Tofino, Ucluelet harbours, Jack Point in Nanaimo, or anywhere there is a dock, estuary, or river.
River otters are often seen traveling in groups. They are somewhat nocturnal so you may just see evidence of their presence from the night before. It is fairly common to see them in family groups, though not necessarily with both the father and mother present at the same time.
The sea otter is very different from the other otters since it spends the majority of its time in salt water and is perfectly content to float around the kelp beds. So they are usually seen from a boat. Unlike river otters, they are mostly active during the daytime, although they rarely venture on land since their movements here are awkward and clumsy.
Of course one of the most famous animals to see when in Victoria are the majestic whales. To see them it is best to book a tour, where experienced seafarers can take you out safely to see whales in their natural habitat.
You’ll be able to see orcas and humpback whales while also catching views of eagles soaring above you and other seafaring animals (like seals!). This adventure is complete with the comfort of a warm, dry cabin that’s excellent for a little break or shelter from unexpected inclimate weather.
Between land and sea, you’re never far from wildlife of all kinds on Vancouver Island. If you’re trying to see a specific type of wildlife, ask us about tours that we can guide you to. When on Vancouver Island, you’ll be sure to find beautiful nature mere steps from your door.