Top 5 Places to View Wildlife in BC 5

Top 5 Places to View Wildlife in BC

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British Columbia boasts wildlife viewing possibilities that are not to be believed. The province is home to more than 1,100 different wildlife species and some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, with viewing opportunities available nearby no matter where you are in the province. Whether you’re hiking, boating or even driving BC’s highways, keep a look out for some of our best-known residents, including bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goats, black and grizzly bears, whales, dolphins and sea lions.

We asked our Facebook fans to recommend their favourite places in BC to view wildlife, and here are their top five suggestions:

5. Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary

A grizzly bear and its cub walk through tall green grass.

A curious grizzly cub looking around while sticking close to its mom. Photo: Chris Wheeler

Coming in at number five is the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, a protected area northeast of Prince Rupert that provides habitat for an estimated fifty grizzlies. In an effort to minimize human contact, only a handful of licensed operators are allowed to conduct tours inside the sanctuary, and there are strict rules in place about how close vessels can get to the bears. From mid-May to mid-July, view mothers with cubs snacking on mussels and grasses; from late-August to mid-September, watch bears splashing in the rivers as they fish for salmon. These tours fill up quickly, so be sure to reserve early.

4. Liard River Hot Springs

A herd of grazing bison.

Bison spotted along the Alaska Highway between Liard River Hot Springs and Watson Lake. Photo: Andrew Strain

In the number four spot is Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park. This popular park along the Alaska Highway is best known for the natural hot springs that ease travellers’ aching muscles, but it is also a fantastic spot for viewing the local flora and fauna. There is a unique warm water swamp here that attracts more than 100 bird species and more than two dozen different mammals, including year-round opportunities to view moose. Our Facebook fans also noted that the section of the Alaska Highway near the park is known for its massive bison populations, as well as for wild horses, bears and caribou.

3. Great Bear Rainforest

A Spirit bear explores a rocky riverbank.

A Kermode (Spirit) bear on a riverbank in the Great Bear Rainforest. Photo: Stephen Harrington

The Great Bear Rainforest, the planet’s largest intact temperate rainforest, took number three on our list. This pristine environment stretches along BC’s central and north coast, and is the only place in the world where you can see the Kermode (Spirit) bear, a sub-species of black bear noted for its white fur. The area also provides unparalleled wildlife and grizzly viewing in a tranquil and remote setting. Here the waters teem with an abundance of marine life, including whales, sea otters, dolphins and sea lions; lush forests rise from the water’s edge; and a labyrinth of fjords stretch inland to the glacier-capped Coast Mountains, where towering granite cliffs give way to fertile estuaries. This magical place will stay with you long after you return home.

2. Stewart/Hyder

A grizzly bear hunting salmon in a creek.

A grizzly bear lunging for salmon in Fish Creek. Photo: Jane Zatylny

Number two on the list is the area around Stewart, BC and Hyder, Alaska in the northeast. This area is noted for its excellent bear viewing opportunities, particularly the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site. Between mid-July and September, grizzly and black bears are drawn to Fish Creek to feed on spawning chum and pink salmon. Take it all in from a huge, elevated viewing platform along the banks of the creek where you can see bears, as well as eagles and sometimes wolves. There is a small fee for this unforgettable experience, and US Forest Service representatives are on-site to answer questions.

1. Vancouver Island

A playful humpback whale puts on a show.

A playful humpback whale off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island. Photo: Shirley Culpin

And our Facebook fans’ most highly recommended place to view wildlife in BC is spectacular Vancouver Island. This enormous island is defined by towering mountains, lush forests, and, of course, the wild Pacific Ocean. Whale watching tours are a must on a visit to the Island, and sightings are almost guaranteed. There are multiple pods of resident Orcas in these waters, and humpback and grey whales are also a common sight, as are dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea otters and sea lions. Our Facebook fans mentioned both Johnstone Strait (east side of the island) and Tofino (west side of the island) as viewing hot spots. Bear watching tours are another big draw on Vancouver Island, with Campbell River mentioned as a great spot to join a tour.