The sheer abundance and diversity of wildlife make for one of the greatest outdoor shows on earth.
Imagine this: zodiac tours of wild Pacific estuaries, birding in a rare grassland ecosystem, snorkeling with salmon, 4×4 tours in a land of mountain goats plus backcountry pack-horse treks and canoe safaris. Then realize that this is just scratching the surface of what’s available here. From Cariboo mountain goats to Orcas, Chilcotin caribou to Fraser Canyon bighorn sheep, our region is like a wildlife preserve without fences.
BC is rated one of the planet’s top three grizzly viewing destinations, with significant grizzly populations native to the Central Coast, the Chilcotin Mountains and the northeastern Cariboo plateau. Certified bear experts lead tours up rugged fjords and inlets and through grassy estuaries and riverbanks, the natural habitat of grizzly (Ursus arctos horribilis) and black bears (Ursus americanus), while detailing the bears’ social hierarchy and body language. Viewing options range from roadside sightings and alpine excursions to fully guided single- and multi-day river drift trips to spy on grizzlies dining on salmon.
The Great Bear Rainforest, located on BC’s central coast, is a vast area of pristine wilderness about the size of Ireland. Encompassing a quarter of the world’s coastal temperate rainforest, it is home to a diverse collection of wildlife, including salmon, multiple bird varieties, black-tailed deer, grey wolf, grizzly bear and black bear. It is also the only place in the world where the legendary white Kermode (Ursus americanus kermodei), or Spirit bear, can be found. Stay at an Indigenous-owned and operated lodge, such as Spirit Bear Lodge in Klemtu, for exclusive access to viewing areas and cultural sites.
Our region’s eco-tour guides, outfitters and naturalists ensure that all of our visitors have a memorable experience, with minimal risk to humans, wildlife or habitat. These highly experienced, certified guides also provide expertise on where and when to find specific species, as well as guidance on a broad range of accommodation and guiding options.
Along the coast of the Great Bear Rainforest, wildlife safaris feature luxurious waterfront lodges, where one can spot eagles, wolves, dolphins and whales. Local biologists lead eco-raft adventures on the Bella Coola and Atnarko rivers, where songbirds congregate and otter, mink, fox and deer forage. Mule trekking is another popular low-impact option for exploring the vast alpine game trails blazed by caribou, mountain goats and wolves.
In the Chilcotin, the wild and remote Yohetta Wilderness area not only shelters mountain goats, bighorn sheep, bobcats and wolverines but also one of the last remaining wild horse herds in Canada. The southern Cariboo around Lillooet is desert country. Etched by the wind, scorched by the sun, this is a land of rattlesnakes and prairie dogs, where eagles soar in search of elusive prey.
The Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region is also the perfect spot to take your binoculars and go in search of incredible birds, many rare. At Bowron Lake Provincial Park, you can view more than 20 species of waterfowl between late April and mid-September. The park is also notable for its large songbird population, including the western wood-pewee, Hammond’s flycatcher and Eastern kingbird.
The wetlands near 100 Mile House are also a birdwatcher’s paradise. Visitors can expect to catch a glimpse of yellow-headed and red-winged blackbirds, as well as sandpipers, swallows, grebes and ducks. Williams Lake is a fantastic spot for wildlife viewing, and there’s no better place to see flora and fauna than the Scout Island Nature Centre. The centre, which encompasses 2.5 km (1.5 mi) of trails along a lake and marsh, promises the opportunity to spot foxes, beavers and turtles. Hundreds of species of birds, including osprey, riparian songbirds, and American white pelicans. Scout Island, an easy walk from downtown, is dog and wheelchair friendly and offers community programs year-round, though birdwatching is at its best during spring and fall.
Over 250 species of birds make their home in the Cariboo Mountains. Take a deep dive into birding with a customized bird-watching tour (such as with Ecotours-BC), accompanied by professional naturalists and birders for a true “classroom” experience. Or venture out with an experienced local professional photographer who can guide you not only to where to sight the warblers, but also how to expertly capture them with your lens.
Tweedsmuir Provincial Park is also a top-notch place to view birds, including spruce grouse, rainforest birds and white-tailed ptarmigans. And Anahim Lake, near Nimpo Lake, offers opportunities to sight white pelicans, trumpeter swans, waterfowl, ruffed grouse, flickers, western tanager and bald eagles.