WILDLIFE WATCH­ING IN BC: What to see in the Fall

The Daily Courier - - OKANAGAN - By Michelle Pentz Glave

Canada is wildlife cen­tral, and Bri­tish Columbia ar­guably has the most di­verse species on of­fer, from green herons and griz­zly bears to or­cas and trum­peter swans. Fall is a won­der­ful time to watch wildlife be­cause it’s not too hot, the as­pens have just started ac­cent­ing the ever­green for­est with yel­low and gold, and the air takes on an invit­ing crisp­ness. Just be sure to keep your dis­tance from wildlife — 30 m (98 ft) min­i­mum, and even fur­ther, at least 100 m (328 ft), from preda­tors such as bears. Go wildlife watch­ing early or at dusk when an­i­mals are the most ac­tive. Here are some of the top spots to see BC’s in­cred­i­ble crit­ters.

GRIZ­ZLIES on the Coast of the Great Bear Rain­for­est

Au­tumn is peak griz­zly sea­son on the wild west coast, and fly-in Knight In­let Lodge is a great place to see them. The Glen­dale Cove area has one of the largest con­cen­tra­tions of griz­zly bears in the prov­ince. Sit­u­ated 80 km (50 mi) north of Camp­bell River, the con­ser­va­tion-minded lodge fo­cuses on safe view­ing in the bears’ nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment. You might see some of the 50 griz­zly and black bears feast­ing on salmon within a 10-km (6-mi) ra­dius of the float­ing wilder­ness re­sort, which is spe­cially de­signed for op­ti­mal an­i­mal ob­ser­va­tion. You can also go sea kayak­ing along the pris­tine rain­for­est coast, take a ma­rine wildlife tour, and whale watch un­til mid-Oc­to­ber. Pack a zoom lens!

SALMON in the Fraser River, near Van­cou­ver

The story is iconic: wild salmon be­gin the ar­du­ous jour­ney from the ocean back to where they were born, to spawn at the main stem of the Fraser River each year from late Septem­ber to early Novem­ber. It’s one of the planet’s largest salmon runs. You can see all five Pa­cific salmon species, too, on the 1,375-km (850-mi)-long wa­ter­way. If you’ve never seen the bat­tered, crim­son-hued fish fight­ing their way up­stream, es­pe­cially when they get to the shal­low north­ern streams at the end, it’s a stir­ring sight. And of course, the spent car­casses at­tract hun­gry bears, ea­gles, and gulls by the thou­sands. If you want to learn more, visit one of the hatch­eries near Van­cou­ver: Chilli­wack River Hatch­ery, Ab­bots­ford’s Fraser Val­ley Trout Hatch­ery (which also has steel­head and cut­throat), or the Capi­lano Salmon Hatch­ery in North Van­cou­ver.

BIGHORN SHEEP in Ra­dium Hot Springs, Koote­nay Na­tional Park

You can see bighorn sheep in spring and sum­mer in the Koote­nay Rock­ies at Ra­dium Hot Springs, but the real drama un­folds in fall: rut­ting sea­son, Oc­to­ber into Novem­ber. That’s when the rams of the 140-strong herd con­vene in town and start clash­ing, lit­er­ally, for hours at a time in com­pe­ti­tion to win fe­male at­ten­tion. The 300-lb (140 kg) bach­e­lors taunt, kick, and then charge each other at 35 kph (22 mph), ris­ing on their hind legs to bash each other’s 30-lb (14kg) horns with in­cred­i­ble force. The sound? Like a sledge­ham­mer—so loud you can hear the crack a mile away. In early Novem­ber, there’s a two-day Head­banger Fes­ti­val with tours and sem­i­nars show­cas­ing the an­nual event. Af­ter the show, soak in Canada’s largest nat­u­ral min­eral hot springs.

MOOSE in Prince Ge­orge, North­ern BC

Moose? You’ll want to head to Prince Ge­orge, home to the high­est den­sity of these hooved gi­ants in North Amer­ica. In fact, 70% of the prov­ince’s moose live in North­ern BC. Grown bulls with im­pres­sive sets of vel­vety antlers stand some 6.5-ft (2-m) tall and might weigh 1,100 lbs (500 kg). Late fall is rut­ting sea­son when the usu­ally soli­tary un­gu­lates gather in groups of eight to 10 and lock horns. Lis­ten for the cows’ loud, moan­ing call de­signed to lure a mate, and take care be­cause moose can be ag­gres­sive at this time of year. Look for moose in clear­ings and val­leys; they pre­fer open spa­ces with plenty of shrubs and brush to munch on and marshy ar­eas sur­round­ing lakes, and are eas­i­est to find in the early morn­ing. Try ei­ther Highway 97 from Pine Pass to Old Friend Creek or Highway 16 from Prince Ge­orge to Vale­mount in the south­ern Rocky Moun­tain Trench. Another op­tion is ca­noe­ing the Crooked River just north of town or in Bowron Lake Pro­vin­cial Park.

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