BC Nature Guide

Nature Viewing Tips


The BC Nature Guide is designed to help enrich your experience of traveling throughout British Columbia. It is planned to be helpful whether you are a visitor or a resident of the province.

This Guide is being built gradually, with more nature viewing sites being added from time to time. Our priority at the outset is to include sites with multiple nature features of interest, that are more easily accessible by vehicle, along main roads and highways; as well as including car and ferry routes; and hiking trails.

» EXPLORE the map of BC Nature Viewing Sites, read detailed descriptions, and view site photos.

British Columbia’s Diversity

British Columbia is the most biologically diverse province in Canada. The abundance of wildlife species in British Columbia is a result of the province’s wide range of landforms and climates. British Columbia’s wildlife habitats include marine, estuary, wetland, fresh water, grassland, alpine, desert, coastal interior, and mountain forests. These are described in:

» BC’s Ecoregion Unit Descriptions

Here are some statistics describing the richness of BC’s nature (source BC Environment):

  • Three-quarters of Canada’s mammal species are found in British Columbia; 24 of those species are exclusive to our province.
  • Over 250 bird species breed in the province, 162 of those (55%) breed nowhere else in Canada.
  • Invertebrate species probably number between 50,000 and 70,000, including 35,000 species of insects. B.C. has some of the most beautiful and most rare species of butterfly in Canada.
  • British Columbia has an estimated 2790 native vascular plants species, (nearly 27% are considered species at risk).
  • Approximately 1000 bryophytes (mosses and liverworts)

Listen to bird & beach sounds while you visit this page.

Recorded in Fillongley Provincial Park, Denman Island by Neville Recording , March 2013

Shorebirds, Tofino Mudflats Wildlife Management Area


BC’s Biodiversity is Globally Significant

British Columbia has a wide and rich variety of landscapes, climate and geography. This diversity has resulted in a range of ecosystems – interrelated communities of plants and wildlife acting as a system in association with landscape and climate. In fact, British Columbia is the most biologically diverse province or territory in Canada; the variety and integrity of BC’s biodiversity makes it globally significant. “BC is special” is the conclusion of the report “Taking Nature’s Pulse – the Status of Biodiversity in British Columbia”.

The range of habitats in British Columbia includes forests, grasslands, meadows, wetlands, rivers, and intertidal and sub-tidal zones. According to BC Environment figures, these habitats support:

  • 143 species of mammals,
  • 454 bird species
  • 20 amphibian species,
  • 19 reptile species
  • 450 fish species

Invertebrate species probably number between 50,000 and 70,000, including 35,000 species of insects. An estimated 2,850 species of vascular plants, 1,000 mosses and liverworts, 1,600 lichens, 522 attached algae, and well over 10,000 fungi occur in the province.


For more information

For more information on British Columbia’s biodiversity, and threats to it, see:


Viewing Ethics

Use courtesy and common sense when viewing wildlife. Following are some specific guidelines:

  • Keep on designated roads and trails.
    Stay on marked trails and designated roads; avoid trampling plants or picking flowers. Wandering away from existing trails and roads will destroy vegetation and could cause soil erosion.
  • View wildlife from a distance
    Use binoculars, a spotting scope, or telephoto camera lenses to bring wildlife closer. By keeping your distance, you will avoid any contact which could disturb or upset wildlife, particularly if they are nesting or with young. Also, some wildlife can be very unpredictable and dangerous, so maintain a safe distance. Signs that you are too close include alert animals that are watching you closely.
  • Control pets
    If you wish to view wildlife, it is preferable to leave your pets at home as many domestic pets will disturb wildlife. If you do bring your pets with you, keep them leashed and controlled at all times. Subject to weather conditions, it may be possible to leave them in your vehicle.
  • Use caution
    Be especially cautious around animals with young. Parents are highly susceptible to stress at this time and may abandon their young.
  • Leave baby animals
    If you do find “abandoned” young, leave it alone and retreat, the parents are probably close by. You are at greater risk too! Defensive parents can pose a threat to encroaching humans. Baby animals are seldom abandoned or orphaned and it is against the law to take them.
  • Do not feed wildlife
    Some wildlife become accustomed to human presence and human food. Animals that become habituated to humans and our food can become dangerous and often must be killed. Learn about a species’ diet by observing wildlife from a distance!
    Please do not feed wildlife, either deliberately or inadvertently. Clean barbecues, pick fruit from fruit trees, and consider avoiding bird feeders as these will encourage bears to visit.
  • Minimize your impact on habitat
    Do not disturb vegetation, rocks, fossils, artifacts, birds or wild animals. Leave the environment untouched and let the next wildlife viewer enjoy the site as you have.
    Grasslands are particularly sensitive to disturbance. Please keep all vehicles on designated roads only. Ground nesting birds are common in grasslands and can be startled from their nests at critical times for young. Please look carefully before you step and maintain at least 100m from any known or potential nesting areas.
    Shoreline areas where water and land meet are also sensitive to damage. Avoid cutting into shore banks to access water; these areas will erode during times of high water.
  • Report environmental abuse
    Environmental rules are enforced more effectively when everyone participates. Report environmental or wildlife abuse to any Conservation Officer, Provincial Park Ranger or other authority. Please record the location, date, time vehicle description and licence plate number of the offender and report using the Observe, Record and Report phone number: 1 800 663 9453
  • Respect private property
    Do not enter private property without permission.
    Cross fences with care, preferably through a gate, and leave gates as you find them.
    Take your garbage home or discard in public garbage bins.
  • Share wildlife viewing opportunities
    Be considerate of other people. Respect private property, fence lines and allow others the same viewing opportunities you have enjoyed. Move along from crowded sites.
  • Tips for successful viewing
  • Learn before looking
  • Know your wildlife. Background knowledge of habitat associations and behaviour can greatly increase your chances of seeing wildlife. Nesting areas, feeding spots and migration corridors are good areas to check out. Check local field guides and natural history books, or visit local nature centres, for more information.
  • Use viewing guides.Viewing guides will help you identify the wildlife species and their habitats.
  • Choose the right time and place
  • What’s in season? Many species are only present or more visible at certain times of year (e.g. during nesting or while on migration). Inquire locally or read up on wildlife prior to visiting.
  • The right time. Dawn and dusk are peak activity times for most wildlife, other than spawning fish. Mid-day is usually quiet.
  • Explore different habitats.Many species use different places in the landscape for nesting, resting and feeding. Edge habitats are places where two different habitats meet such as water and upland, or forest and grassland. The edges between habitat types have a high diversity of species, for example: marsh edges, field edges, fence rows etc. These are good places to find wildlife. These often provide food, cover and nesting sites in one place and provide good wildlife viewing opportunities.
  • Stay downwind. Many mammals rely on a keen sense of smell. If you are downwind, they are much less likely to know you are nearby.
  • Learn wildlife signs.
  • Tracks and droppings can tell you how an animal lives and where you might wait to observe it.
  • Be patient, unobtrusive and flexible
  • Be patient.Staying still for long periods and sitting quietly in one spot allows wildlife to adapt to your presence. Be prepared for long waits – dress warmly and protect yourself from bugs. Wildlife may be difficult to observe even though you have heard the species or detected the signs.
  • Be quiet. Minimize noises which will scare off wildlife – car doors, loud voices, noisy walking. Wear clothes that don’t rustle.
  • Blend in. Wear drab clothing that blends in with your surroundings. It need not be army camouflage, but avoid bright colours (except during hunting season!) Use cover to hide your presence. Wildlife will usually sense your presence long before you have sensed theirs – most animals have a keen sense of hearing and smell; most birds, and some large mammals such as sheep and deer, have keen eyesight. Along roads and highways, you can usually view wildlife without disturbing them if you remain in your vehicle.
  • Be flexible. If the wildlife you hope to see is not showing itself, look around for other nature to observe. Wildlife behaviour is highly variable. If it’s quiet, enjoy other highlights such as wildflowers, butterflies, or unique geological features.
  • Use visual aids. Don’t push it! Successful viewing includes the safety of you and the wildlife. Getting too close to wildlife endangers both yourself and the animal. Use binoculars, scopes, or telephoto camera lenses to scan wildlife areas; they will increase your chances to observe wildlife without causing a disturbance.
  • Safety
    Keep your distance – enjoy wildlife going about their daily routine. Use binoculars or scope to bring them closer.
  • Be alert while observing – know what wildlife to expect at each site and act accordingly (e.g. bears are attracted to salmon spawning sites and berry bushes).
  • Do not disturb young wildlife – Leave young where you find them and move away quickly; it is illegal to move them. A nearby parent may become aggressive.
  • Do not approach wild animals. They can be unpredictable and dangerous.
  • Always yield to heavy equipment if traveling on a logging road.
  • While driving, be aware that wildlife may unexpectedly cross roads.
  • Find out about local hunting seasons by consulting the ‘Hunting and trapping regulations synopsis’.
  • Wood ticks. Wood ticks are most prevalent between March and June. These parasites reside in tall grass and low shrubbery and seek out warm-blooded hosts. Although they are potential carriers of disease, they are a natural part of the environment and can be avoided if you wear long pants tucked into socks or gaiters. Thoroughly examine yourself and your pets after you have been outside.
  • Rattlesnakes. Rattlesnakes (an endangered, protected species in BC) are the only venomous snake found in the province. They occur in dry valley areas in portions of the Thompson Nicola. The bite can be serious so be careful where you put your feet and hands.
    Be careful in rocky terrain or talus slopes in both grasslands and open forests from mid-April to mid-September. The chance of being bitten is rare. Rattlesnakes are only aggressive when they feel threatened so do not approach them.
  • Bears and cougars. Much of BC, including the Thompson Region, is bear and cougar country. Bears are generally shy of humans, but, when startled or feeling threatened, they may become aggressive. Like all good parents, female bears (sows) are very protective of their cubs. Cougars are also occasionally aggressive towards people. Please practice good wilderness safely skills and etiquette while traveling in the Region.
  • Bears often frequent salmon spawning areas. Learn how to be ‘bear safe’ by reading BC Parks Bear safety guide.