Bears on Vancouver Island

Old Mar 27th, 2023, 06:53 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 858
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Bears on Vancouver Island

My obsession for the past several years has been the pursuit of bears. I saw my first free range bears in Banff and have been hooked ever since. I saw some in North Carolina in 2020 but since then, I have been out of luck. A repeat trip to NC, nada. New Hampshire's White Moutains, nada. Yelllowstone and the Tetons, nada.

I read there are thousands of bears on Vancouver Island. Does anyone have any experience seeing them on the island and if so, where? I'm trying to formulate my itinerary. I am not sure whether to try both sides, like Tofino on one side and Port Hardy area on the other. Any recommendations and personal experiences would be appreciated!
aggiegirl is offline  
Old Mar 28th, 2023, 10:05 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 434
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Vancouver Island's a massive island, the size of a US state (i.e. it's larger than New Hampshire, for example). It's an island with many small and medium-sized cities, highways, airports, suburban sprawl (with Walmart, Costco, fast food chains, gas stations, Starbucks drive thrus, etc.). Lots of small towns as well, and farmland, wine regions, cideries, distilleries, many craft breweries, and entire mountain range (with a major ski resort in winter and rugged alpine hiking, alpine lakes, glaciers to see in the summer, etc.), temperate rainforests and alpine forests (some protected as parks, most used as industrial logging operations), etc. You can spend weeks on the island and not see it all. But you can never guarantee seeing bears. I've been to Vancouver Island countless times and have never seen a bear. But I've never gone looking for them, either.

The only type of bear on Vancouver Island is a black bear. They can sometimes be found foraging on the shore around Pacific Rim National Park. There are actual bear-watching tours out of Tofino to see just that.

There is a whole bear-watching industry out of the north island around Port Hardy, but it's not to see black bears at Port Hardy. It's to board a boat from Port Hardy and then motor east across the strait from the northern tip of Vancouver Island across to the remote ocean inlets at the base of the Coast Mountains on the BC mainland, which are undeveloped and inaccessible by road. It's along those ocean inlets where they go to see grizzly bears. The viewing is often done from inside the boat. But those are often full-day affairs, they're often really expensive tours, they sell out months in advance, and they're geared towards international tourists who want that bucket list "watch a grizzly catch a salmon" experience and are willing to pay thousands of dollars for it.

I'm sure it's possible to luck out and see black bears lingering around Port Hardy, but that's not why Port Hardy's a bear-watching hot spot.

When are you planning this trip? That can make a major difference. Will you have a car?

The black bears that live on Vancouver Island would typically hibernate from November or so until April and then they're most active at dawn and at dusk. In the spring time, when they emerge from hibernation, they stick to low elevations to eat the fresh green shoots, and would be seen along roads or along trails. As the snow disappears from the mountains, the bears usually head into higher ground, away from human activity. And as it gets hotter in the summer, they stay in the shade and don't come out again until it cools down in the late evening.

If you really wanted to see bears on Vancouver Island, I'd book a tour out of Tofino. And then just prioritize your time of being out in your car early morning. I imagine you're well-versed in being "bear aware"?

Last edited by BC_Robyn; Mar 28th, 2023 at 10:16 AM.
BC_Robyn is offline  
Old Mar 28th, 2023, 10:15 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 434
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Also, here's a link to the Tourism Tofino website for bear watching: https://tourismtofino.com/things-to-...dlife-viewing/
BC_Robyn is offline  
Old Mar 29th, 2023, 08:01 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 10,363
Likes: 0
Received 3 Likes on 1 Post
I am also interested in visiting British Columbia and happened to come across this https://spiritbear.com after reading the OP's question. Have no idea as to cost or quality, but it seemed worth looking into.

FD
Fra_Diavolo is online now  
Old Mar 29th, 2023, 08:23 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 434
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Spirit Bear Lodge is certainly an option for bear-watching, but it's not on Vancouver Island, but much further north along the BC coast, just slightly south of the Alaska panhandle.

Here are more bear-watching tour companies: https://www.bearviewing.ca/find-a-tour/
BC_Robyn is offline  
Old Mar 29th, 2023, 05:48 PM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 858
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I’m thinking about June. I’d rent a car in Victoria.
I have seen that tours to the Great Bear Rainforest are super expensive so I’ll be content with black bears. I have read that every once in a while a grizzly turns up on Vancouver Island though!
I am bear aware.
aggiegirl is offline  
Old Mar 30th, 2023, 09:16 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 4,006
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We've been on bear watching river floats twice in Bella Coola on the Atnarko River, in the September timeframe, when the grizzlies are fishing for salmon on the river. It's an adventure in itself, driving over the Freedom Road - not hazardous, but it does take at least half the day to drive from Williams Lake to Bella Coola/Tweedsmuir. If you really are interested in seeing bears, it's worth the trip. You'll also notice that people's yards have high fences, some electrified. There are both black and brown (grizzly) bears.

Here's a good link: https://pintsizepilot.com/bella-coola-bears/

We've used Kynoch Adventures: https://www.kynochadventuretours.com/

Tweedsmuir Lodge is bear central, I've seen grizzlies even near their cabins: https://www.tweedsmuirparklodge.com/...y-bear-safari/
sludick is offline  
Old Apr 18th, 2023, 09:41 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 1,686
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We have a lot of black bears on the island, but they can be elusive at times. If you go to Ucluelet and take the archipelago tours you would have a pretty good chance of seeing them on the shore.
They are more active in the fall with sightings around Apple orchards and salmon runs, but we do see them starting now quite often, but luck of the draw .good luck.
live42day is offline  
Old Apr 19th, 2023, 06:47 PM
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 858
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Fall would be good for me since I ended up booking Scotland for June. Does Vancouver Island have trouble with smoke from wildfires in September?
aggiegirl is offline  
Old Apr 20th, 2023, 07:17 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 1,686
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
No idea about smoke in the fall, it would completely depend on if and where there maybe fires and which way the winds are coming from. We had a couple of really bad years but not the norm, hopefully that is not the case again
live42day is offline  
Old Nov 15th, 2023, 08:12 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Nov 2023
Posts: 21
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi aggiegirl.

I’m curious how you made out on the quest for bears.

You mentioned grizzly bears visiting Vancouver Island. There was one big bore which frequently swam over to a point just north of Campbell River for a few days and there was a family of four in the Salmon River delta at Sayward for a week or so a couple of years back, but I haven’t heard of anything since.

Tofino/Ucluelet is always good for black bears.

Cheers.
Captim is offline  
Old Nov 18th, 2023, 01:30 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Nov 2023
Posts: 21
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
If you come back again, think about visiting Vancouver Island from Campbell River, north. That’s where you will find the big ones; black and brown.
Sometimes they are just sitting around waiting for you…


Last edited by Captim; Nov 18th, 2023 at 02:15 PM.
Captim is offline  
Old Jan 31st, 2024, 07:03 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jan 2024
Posts: 15
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
For anyone wondering about wildlife on Vancouver Island, here is a summary of animals by region. Campbell River offers several "spring bears and waterfalls" tours.

Tofino: black bears, wolves, grey and humpback whales; maybe offshore and/or transient killer whales. I would not seek a whale tour here.
-------------------------------------------------

Victoria: no bears, humpback, grey and minke whales. Transient, California and offshore killer whales.
-------------------------------------------------
Cowichian, Nanaimo, Courtenay: humpback and transient killer whales. Porpoise and white-sided dolphins.
--------------------------------------------------
Campbell River: same as Cowichan-Courtenay, plus black bears; brown and grizzly bears are seen via boat excursions to mainland inlets.
--------------------------------------------------
Port McNeill: humpbacks, northern resident and transient killer whales. Porpoise and dolphins. Black, brown and grizzly bears. Wolves. Sea otters.


All locations also have seals, eagles and marine birds. Most sea lions will be present in May, but away at their breeding grounds in August. There are only sea otters on the west and north coasts. River otters can be found in all areas of the east coast. Black tail deer are widely distributed and fallow deer are located in several areas. Elk in the Cowichan and Sayward Valleys. Cougar everywhere but you won’t likely see them following you.

Most neighbourhoods in Esquimalt, just west of Victoria, have domesticated deer.
T4Tim is offline  
Old Feb 1st, 2024, 03:21 AM
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 858
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Captim, I totally missed your notes in November! Thank you for the information.
I ended up going to Waterton Lakes last year. I did see one big bear pretty close and two from a greater distance. For this year, I’m debating Vancouver Island or Jasper. A friend went to Jasper last summer and saw tons of black and grizzly bears.
aggiegirl is offline  
Old Feb 1st, 2024, 03:23 AM
  #15  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 858
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
T4Tim, the list is great. I’m sure this will be appreciated by many. Thank you.
aggiegirl is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Original Poster
Forum
Replies
Last Post
vibhav
United States
4
Jul 31st, 2010 12:23 PM
Irene
United States
5
Jul 11th, 1999 07:00 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Your Privacy Choices -