Bears, birds & other wildlife, Vancouver
While many people hold notions of Canada being the land of overabundant wilderness... let's be real folks.
Bears do not stalk around the city streets. You won't see moose in Vancouver, or anywhere near the city for hundreds of miles. (They live in flat swamp land, not in the mountains!) Cariboo? They live in the arctic. Whales? Several miles out in the Strait of Georgia.
Nevertheless, there is quite a bit of urban wildlife to keep your eyes out for.
Raccoons are a common occurance, especially at Stanley Park's Prospect Point. Please don't feed them or pet them. They're quite vicious and can bite.
Squirrels are as common in the parks as pigeons are at London's Trafalgar Square. They're cute.
Bats come out at dusk and they eat insects. They have amazing radar systems and are smarter than to get stuck in your hair. Don't fear them.
Canada geese are literally everywhere there is abundant green grass. Seagulls and crows live everywhere. Don't feed them because they poo over everything.
Harbour seals may pop their heads up from the salt water if you're near a beach. Keep an eye out for a puppy-looking creature far in the water. It's likely a harbour seal!
Even though the bald eagle is the national bird of the USA, there are more bald eagles living in British Columbia than anywhere else in the world. Chances are, if you look up at the right tree, you'll see a couple or two. They are gigantic birds with white heads, and they're hard to miss when they're soaring high above.
Coyotes are rare, but they do live in Vancouver. They look like straggly dogs. Do not feed them. Once you feed them, they lose their fear of humans and will approach humans. This is bad because, they'll usually approach children, and parents will want the coyote gone. Once the coyotes are deemed "too friendly" they are usually shot on the spot. It's like shooting a dog. Not pretty, and not what you want.
So appreciate the wildlife... photograph the wildlife, but please don't feed the wildlife!
Although Vancouver is a fairly large city it is also very close to nature and therefore in some parts of the city you are likely to come across black bear or even cougar! Normally the bear sitings are usually at the very northern most part of the city ie West or North Vancouver and fortunately cougar sitings are very rare. Heed warnings if posted at places such as Lynn Canyon.
The only thing that I could warn you about is the deer are very tame and think nothing of running infront of cars, the raccoons will eat you garbage if you let them, and their are cougars, but they wouldn't go through your yard. So if you stay in a well lit area and don't go wondering into the trees alone you will be fine.
This is a danger that you should be aware of, but one not to obsess over. That's because the likelyhood of seeing a bear while in Greater Vancouver is pretty slim. However, bear precautions are necessary if you were to go hiking out into the forests in the local mountains (Cypress, Seymour, etc), but even then they're a rare sighting.
Black bears are the only bears that live around Vancouver. They're smaller than the grizzly bear (which you will *not* see near Vancouver). Black bears have a tendency to graze for berries along the side of mountain roads and clearings. This is likely where you'd spot one - driving along a mountain highway, or driving up a mountain to go hiking. Occasionally you might spot one while hiking.
Bears are unpredictable. They are also more rare than most tourists assume (which often ends up in disappointment). A common misconception that visitors have to Vancouver (and Canada in general) is that bears are commonly seen, and that there are known bear habitats where you can guarantee seeing a bear. This isn't the case. Bears have a natural fear of humans, so upon hearing one, will normally head off in another direction. This is another reason why it makes it hard to guarantee seeing one - it's really a hit and miss affair. They travel long distances in remote areas, and geneally stay away from human activity.
Most parks will have signs posted alerting you about bear activity, and will close trails if necessary. Some provide brochures or posters informing you what to do if you see one. Read them and observe them.
Also, never feed wild bears. They'll lose their instinct to fear humans, which will likely end up with the loss of their life. That's because they become reliant upon approaching humans for food, and thus become threats.
If you're lucky enough to see a bear from your car, stay within the car. Take pictures from *within* the car, but stay a far distance away. Do *not* provoke it. Consider yourself extremely lucky for having the opportunity to see such an amazing creature.
Don't worry you're unlikley to see a bear in downtown Vancouver but if you're out and about in the wilderness, or treking through one of the many trails you might bump into a bear. We saw this one on Mount Seymour and the bear was aware that we were passing by. We observed from quite a distance but this was the first bear we had seen in the wild as it merrily carried on searching for food.
You're constantly reminded that when you see a bear in the wild, then you're the one in their backyard and therefore the onus is on you not to provoke or harm the bear.
When driving through the mountains,take every precaution to avoid skunks.
A guy hit one while we were there and he spent a whole week with his car covered in tomato ketchup to beat the smell.
Don't know if it worked though.
If you go hiking in BC, please be aware of the wild life; during our month's stay, my family and myself spotted 6 bears, of which 3 unexpectedly from up close (within 100 meters). Be carefull; they are very fast and can get nasty!
***BEARS*** - they are everywhere. They like to sometimes roam around streets in N Coquitlam, and West and North Vancouver looking for tasty garbage. Notice all the 'Bears in this area warning' signs all over N. Vancouver however you're more likely to run into bears on hiking trails or camp spots in B.C.
1) DON'T GO NEAR REAL WILD BEARS. Don't listen to clowns with fake documentaries showing them frolicking with bears and claiming it's safe!!! The bears in these shows are captive/trained bears, read the film's credits at the end for 'Hollywood animals inc' or whoever they contracted to shoot the scenes.
2) If you see a bear, avoid eye-contact and back away slowly. Say something to the bear to let it know you're not prey but don't scream at it. Don't ever play dead that's urban myth, and certainly won't work.
3) If you are going hiking or camping deep in the bush carry two cans of pepper spray, and a telescopic martial arts staff. Carry them in your front pockets because an aggressive bear is likely to pounce on you and knock you to the ground. Spray the entire can at the thing, and back away without suddenly sprinting and triggering it's chasing instinct. You will probably need the other can, as spray doesn't last very long with bears. You can also get a bear bell for your backpack to let any woodling critters know you're coming, so you don't suddenly surprise them.
If you have a gun and are a hunter, then you already know shooting a charging bear does pretty much nothing unless you have miraculous aim and can hit it directly in the head. Hunters have shot charging bears through the heart and it doesn't matter because a bear's heart beats so slow stopping it won't affect their charge and they'll still have a few minutes of mauling you to death before succumbing to injuries. Pepper spray is much more effective in preventing an altercation.
4) CLEAN UP YOUR GARBAGE. If you're camping and leave food lying around, critters are gonna visit your camp in the night. Seal everything up and hang it from a tree if possible. A squirrel cleaned out one of my friend's entire food stash while he was camping the West Coast Trail because he didn't seal his bag. Curse you squirrel! You'll rue this day
***SKUNKS*** - one of the fastest growing businesses in Vancouver is professional dog washing (no lie). This is because there is an out of control skunk population in Vancouver and all surrounding areas. Letting your dog off leash on a hiking trail in Stanley park or anywhere pretty much guarantees your dog getting a full spray of skunk.
***RACCOONS*** - yes there's a huge family of raccoons living in Stanley park you can directly walk up to and feed. Obviously don't do this. Some idiot was petting the baby raccoons a few months ago and wound up getting attacked. Save yourself getting painful rabies shots at the doctor and don't feed or touch any wild animal.
***COYOTES*** - are rare to ever see, but if you do don't go near it. A girl was mauled to death in Ontario on a city trail by coyotes a month ago. Remember more urban sprawl = hungrier and more desperate wild animals.
There is no need to worry about wild animals in Vancouver. The bears are frequently seen across the lions gate bridge, and are rarely considered dangerous (but they are wild animals, so keep your distance - but actually coming across one is pretty rare in the north shore). If you are looking for wild bears, consider driving north towards jasper, you are basically guaranteed bear sightings in and around the town of blue river, but beware there are also grizzlies in this area. Also watch for wolves and cougars.
Cougars are rare, but have been known to roam parts of the entire mainland, in fact, my grandfather shot one in his basement in delta (Ladner trunk road)! They are much more common on Vancouver island.
All in all, more people are attacked by sharks than they are bears.... So don't worry...