Let’s take a look at some of the unique wildlife that calls western Canada home.
Perhaps the most iconic animal associated with Canada, all three species of bears can be found in Western Canada. Black bears can be found throughout BC and Alberta but are commonly found in Whistler, a ski resort near Vancouver, where you can even take a tour to see the bears and their dens on the mountain. Grizzly Bears are commonly found in the Rocky Mountains and are often spotted in Banff and Jasper National Parks along the side of the highway. So keep an eye out when driving through these national parks! Finally, the unique and hard-to-find Spirit (Kermode) Bear of the Great Bear Rainforest. These bears are extremely hard to come across, and special trips into this remote park are needed for even a tiny chance to see them – but it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience if you got lucky!
Interesting fact: During their winter slumber, bears don’t lose any muscle mass, like humans would if they slept for months and months. Scientists think this is because bears absorb and recycle their urine into a protein!
If you visit Vancouver or nearby Victoria on Vancouver Island, be sure to head out on a whale watching tour. The waters between Vancouver and Vancouver Island are one of the best places in the world to see these amazing whales (some are up to 10,000kg!). If you are fortunate, you’ll get to see these amazing animals in action as they hunt their usual prey – salmon; sometimes, you’ll even see them playing amongst themselves or with their food, putting on quite the display for boaters!
Interesting fact: Also commonly known as Killer Whales, this name came from sailors who often saw these large dolphins hunting and killing whales.
These majestic birds, most commonly associated with our neighbours to the south, can be found in many areas of Western Canada but mostly in coastal areas. These birds have a wingspan of over 6 feet and can be found hunting from Vancouver in the south to Prince Rupert on the north coast and some inland regions. Bird-watchers will have plenty of opportunities to get a snap of these majestic birds during their visit to Western Canada.
Interesting fact: Eagles are thought to be able to see about 7 times farther than humans, which helps them hunt fish and small animals from great heights.
A little luck is required to spot these sure-footed animals, who often spend their times high up on sheer, cliff faces. Luckily for you, the highways in Western Canada cut through many mountain passes and sometimes you’ll find families of Mountain Goats standing on the side of the highway as they make their way up or down the mountain.
Interesting fact: Mountain Goats are not goats, they are more closely related to the antelope family!
Living underground in large colonies, Marmots dig into the earth with their large front teeth and strong front limbs. There are numerous colonies around Whistler and they actually gave this resort its name, which came from the shrill whistles which can be heard throughout the mountain.
Interesting fact: the marmot spends virtually all of its life under the earth!
One of the more elusive animals on our list, cougars like to stay hidden and away from prying eyes. One of the largest species of cats in North America, the cougar is a ferocious predator and likes to ambush its prey, often attacking from above. You’ll be much happier to not have come across these big cats.
Interesting fact: Due to their powerful hind legs, a cougar can jump straight up over 5 meters!
Another iconic animal of Canada, Moose are the largest species of deer, and it can get over 2 meters high at the shoulder! Found throughout Western Canada, but not as commonly seen as bears, Moose tend to hang out near lakes and marshes for food and are excellent swimmers.
Interesting Fact: In Europe, Moose are known as Elk, which in North America is another species of deer altogether!
While people think of bears and Moose when they think of Canada’s wildlife, the beaver was actually given official status as an emblem of Canada! Found in numerous lakes and waterways, the beaver spends most of its time building its home – beaver dams! They have large front teeth for cutting down small trees to make their homes, and their large, flat tails act like a rudder underwater.
Interesting Fact: The average beaver dam is about 100 meters long, but the world’s largest beaver dam was discovered in Alberta’s Wood Buffalo National Park and measured over 850 meters long!
This wraps up what we think are the most remarkable species of wildlife to be found around Western Canada. Whether you visit Vancouver Island on the west coast of BC or in the mountain passes of Alberta, we’re sure you’ll get a chance to see some of Canada’s top wildlife species. What animals are you hoping to see during your trip?
Photos courtesy of ©Lisanne Smeele, Destination BC / Garry Henkel / Albert Normandin