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  • Photograph of Grizzly Bears

    Grizzly Bears at Knight Inlet by Coke & Som Smith.


    Best Wildlife in Western Canada

    Grizzly (Brown) Bear (mostly mid-Aug to mid-Oct), Black Bear (including the white form known as 'Spirit Bear' (mostly Sep)), Killer (mostly Jul-Aug), Humpback (mostly Jul-Sep) and Grey (mostly May) Whales, Pacific White-sided Dolphin, Dall's Porpoise, Sea Otter, Steller's Sealion. Also a chance of Moose and American Beaver.

    Barrow's Goldeneye, Bald Eagle, Mountain Bluebird, Varied Thrush and Clark's Nutcracker, as well as Surf Scoter, Golden Eagle, American Black Oystercatcher, Long-billed Curlew, Black Turnstone, Wilson's Phalarope, Heermann's Gull, Pigeon Guillemot, Marbled Murrelet, Cassin's and Rhinoceros Auklets, White-throated Swift, Anna's, Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds, Belted Kingfisher, Red-breasted, Red-naped and Williamson's Sapsuckers, Grey and Steller's Jays, Western Bluebird, Black-throated Grey and Townsend's Warblers, Western Tanager, Lazuli Bunting and Bobolink. Also a chance of Asian waterbirds and shorebirds very rare in North America amongst the tens of thousands which migrate through the Vancouver area in September, Harlequin Duck, Sandhill Crane, Tufted Puffin (May), Spotted, Barred, Northern Pygmy, Great Horned and Flammulated Owls, Lewis's Woodpecker, and Pine and Evening Grosbeaks.

    Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
    Six-gilled Shark (Vancouver area, May-June, scuba-diving).

    Best Sites for Wildlife in Western Canada

    Best Times for Wildlife in Western Canada

    The best times for Grizzly Bears are May-June when they feed mainly on plants, and especially mid-August to mid-October when they fish for salmon, with the highest numbers likely to be fishing toward the end of the season when they need to fatten up before hibernation. September is also the peak time to look for 'Spirit Bears' but July-August is when Killer Whale numbers usually reach their highest, when the regularly seen pods are joined by those following the salmon runs.

    The best time to look for breeding birds in the northern summer is mid-July, but the peak time for migrating waterbirds and shorebirds in the Vancouver area is September.

    Recommended Books etc. for Western Canada

    Mammals of North America by R W Kays and D E Wilson. PUP, 2009 (Second Edition).

    Mammals of North America by F A Reid. Peterson North American Field Guides, 2006 (Fourth Edition).

    Peterson Field Guide to Finding Mammals in North America by V Dinets. Houghton Mifflin, 2015.

    Field Guide to the Birds of North America edited by J Dunn and J Alderfer. NGS, 2011 (Sixth Edition).

    Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America by K Kaufman. Houghton Mifflin, 2005.

    The North American Bird Guide by D Sibley. Helm, 2014 (Second Edition).

    A Birder's Guide to British Columbia by K Taylor. Steller Press Ltd, 1998 (Second Edition).

    Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America by J Brock and K Kaufman. Houghton Mifflin, 2003.

    Apps etc.

    National Geographic Birds: Field Guide to North America.

    The Sibley eGuide to the Birds of North America.

    Peterson Birds of North America.

    Audubon Birds - A Field Guide to North American Birds.

    iBird Ultimate Guide to Birds.

    Trip Reports for Western Canada

    Many trip reports, some for Western Canada, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Western Canada. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Western Canada' below.

    Local Guides and Tours in Western Canada

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation in Western Canada

    Some Organized Tours to Western Canada

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Western Canada include the following.