Bear Watching on Vancouver Island
The west coast of Canada has an estimated 120,000 black bears and Vancouver Island is home to over 7,000 those - it's black bear territory! During the spring and summer they can be spotted fishing in local rivers and lakes, but in the fall everything changes because the salmon begin to spawn.
In anticipation of this, I headed to one of the best spots for the public to see bears during the fall of every year - a fish hatchery. Bears are preparing for hibernation by bulking up and hatcheries are the equivalent of a drive-thru window for fish!
The Perfect Spot ...
The Quinsam River Hatchery, located just outside of Campbell River, was my weekend destination to observe the salmon-feasting that occurs from late August to the end of October. Watching at the hatchery's counting fence, along a stretch of the river's shoreline, you'll see hundreds of salmon filling the waterway and the bears that are enjoying them.
Insider Hints ...
- During my visit to the hatchery I was surprised to learn that the bears have a rhythm for eating during the day. They come down to the river, catch a fish to snack on, and then return to the water again every forty-five minutes or so. On this day, there were three fishing, so every 10 minutes we saw one coming down to enjoy the salmon.
- Don't mistake the slow, steady lumbering of these black bears for laziness. They can move fast if they need to, so respect them and give them ample room, staying behind any fences. Parks Canada has put together this helpful guide on safety and bears ... it's worth a read.
- Most hatcheries have gates at their entrance and shorter hours then you might expect. Make sure you check times before you arrive to ensure that you don't end up having your your car inadvertently locked up for the night.
MORE INFORMATION ...
If you'd rather enjoy a hosted tour for Bear Watching on the North Island, you'll find a great list of providers HERE
Photos - Top photo taken by EikoJonesPhotography (used by permission) and all others by the author.