Part of the wonder and magic of experiencing the great outdoors is spotting wildlife in its natural habitat. The sight of a bald eagle swooping and gliding on warm air thermals in the Fraser Canyon, or salmon splashing against seemingly unpassable river currents in the Coquihalla are sights that fill our souls and live on in our memories. Here in Hope, Cascades and Canyons, you’ll love the variety of wildlife our lush landscape nourishes and nurtures. Read on to familiarize yourself with some of the creatures you’ll find here.
Thacker Marsh, the Hope Airport, and Manning Park (home to over 200 bird species), are three favourite locations for birdwatching. Spring brings viewing opportunities as Hope is a resting spot for birds migrating north through the Cascade Mountains. Thacker Marsh is home to riparian species like Red-Winged Blackbirds, Great Blue Heron, American Dippers, Belted Kingfishers, and Canada Geese. At Hope Airport, watch for Spotted Towhees, Goldfinch, Robins, Chickadees, and Pine Siskins. Manning Park has four noteworthy areas to birdwatch: Strawberry Flats (Rufous and Calliope Hummingbirds, Boreal Chickadees); Beaver Pond (Spotted Sandpipers, Woodpeckers); Mount Frosty (Spruce Grouse, Boreal Chickadees, White-Tailed Ptarmigan); and East Gate (Harlequin Ducks, Northern Waterthrush, American Redstarts) to name a few!
British Columbia is home to about 1/4 of Canada’s black bears: that translates to roughly 150,000 black bears in the province. Our region’s plentiful vegetation and fish feed their population. Bears are most likely to be spotted in spring (waking from hibernation) and fall (as they eat to fatten up for winter). Male bears leave the den around mid-March, but females stay longer to nurse and care for cubs. Despite their name, black bears can also be brown, cinnamon, blonde (and very rarely, white). Learn more about BC’s bears and how to be bear aware in Hope, Cascades and Canyons here.
Columbian Ground Squirrel
These adorable creatures are famously found in E.C. Manning Provincial Park, scurrying on the grounds of the resort and Lightning Lake. They build burrows they sleep in, which they make larger with time. Burrows provide protection from inclement weather and predators, and a place for females to give birth. After hibernating, they appear in spring to feast on berries, roots, and vegetation to fatten up for next hibernation. They only spend a few months above ground – usually disappearing by mid-August, into a special chamber for hibernation below the frost line, called a hibernaculum. Hibernacula are lined with grasses, and the ground squirrels block the entrance with soil once inside. Learn more about the Columbian Ground Squirrel here.
Although they could be mentioned in the “birdwatching” category, these raptors are so majestic, they deserve a category of their own! With a massive wingspan that ranges from 6 to 7.5 feet, the bald eagle dwarfs other raptors, and is second in size to only the California condor. Adults have the distinctive white head and tail and dark black-brown body, while juveniles are a mottled brown. Bald eagles don’t have the distinctive plumage until 4-5 years of age. Look for them near bodies of water; they’ll spend hours perched in trees watching for fish. They also eat waterfowl, rabbits, amphibians, and other small animals. Fun fact: female bald eagles are larger than males.
Salmon and Sturgeon
Many varieties of fish are found here (the Fraser River alone is home to 41 species), but two most notable are salmon and white sturgeon. Did you know the Fraser River is the largest sockeye producer in the world? You’ll also find chinook, chum, coho, and pink salmon. The great dinosaur of the deep, the white sturgeon, glides in the Fraser in search of food like freshwater clams, fish eggs, snails, and larval insects. Older sturgeon feed primarily on fish. Sturgeon can reach over 100 years old in age, 14 feet in length, and 1400 pounds in weight! Their appearance has remained unchanged for over 175 million years: their body is covered with bone plates instead of scales, giving them the prehistoric appearance.
What wildlife have you encountered in Hope, Cascades and Canyons? Be sure to tag your photos with @tourismhcc and use our hashtag, #ExploreHCC, to share your wildlife pictures with us!