Guide to Vancouver’s Marine Wildlife
Vancouver boasts some of the most diverse and exciting marine wildlife in North America. Every year hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to the areas to encounter the magnificent creatures that can be spotted off the coast.
The giants of the deep can be spotted throughout spring and summer off the coast of Vancouver. Grey Whales, Humpback Whales, and Killer Whales all make their way across the North Pacific Ocean as they pass through on the way from their way from their winter breeding grounds to feed in the nutrient-rich waters of the Arctic.
Orcas, often referred to as killer whales, are a big draw for many tourists, making whale watching tours the top of many peoples ‘Vancouver bucket list.’ In fact, Orcas are not whales at all, they are the largest member of the dolphin family, making them incredibly social and intelligent animals.
They inhabit vast swaths of the ocean across the world and are commonly seen along the western coast of the United States and Canada. Only a few decades ago we knew very little about this species. But over the last 40 years as researchers have made the trip to Vancouver Island and other areas of the Pacific Northwest to study the family pods, we have gained great insight into the way they live.
Orca can be observed all year round but more frequently in the summer when the salmon start to move inward to return to their eggs upriver.
There are two populations of Humpback Whales that can be observed passing along the British Columbia coast in Spring/Fall as they make their way to and from tropical climates in Hawaii and Mexico to the cooler oceans of Alaska to feed.
Unlike Orca, these whales have often been spotted alone as they do not make social groups. While they do not form lasting bonds with other whales, they do assist each other with hunting within their population and are known to help each other in herding together schools of fish such as herring and krill.
Over recent years the Humpback population has started to grow, and they are seen ever more frequently off the BC coast making it an almost certainly you will catch a glimpse of one if you head out on a whale watching tour.
Some exciting marine birds can be caught sight of in the coastal areas of Vancouver; the most noticeable is the Bald Eagle.
The Bald Eagle is one of the most iconic birds on the entire North American continent. With wingspans of up to 90 inches, these magnificent birds of prey can be seen making great dives into the ocean to catch fish, their primary food source.
British Columbia is one of the best places in the world to see these magnificent birds, with a population of over 90,000 of the spanning between here and Alaska.
Great Blue Heron
Nested in colonies from 5-500, you can see groups varying in sizes along the cost. These birds are the largest of all herons having extremely long, thin legs, meaning you can spot them much further out to sea than many other birds as their legs allow them to dive into waters of greater depth to catch food.
Other Marine Wildlife
Harbor seals are the most common marine animal in the Vancouver area, with a thriving population able to be observed almost every day of the year on our tours.
Pups are given birth to in the spring and summer seasons and can be spotted alongside their mothers for 3-4 weeks within these months before they go off on their own.
There is estimated to be over 100,000 seals off the BC coast and with few dangers to their habitat and the only prey being the occasional Orca, it is likely this population will continue to thrive in the area.
Two species of Sea Lion inhabit the waters around BC, the California Sea Lion, and the Stellar Sea Lion.
As you may have guessed from the name, California Sea Lions come up from the coast of California. During the non-breeding seasons, many males (and some females) migrate north. Stellar Sea Lions, on the other hand, come across from Japan to hunt on salmon and herring in the summer months. Both species are incredibly playful and if seen will be splashing around in groups, making their distinctive bark-like noise.
If you’ve always dreamed of seeing a great whale at its peak as it breaks through the surface of the water, or observing a bald eagle as it dives into the ocean to catch its prey, then Vancouver is the place for you. These once in a lifetime wildlife experience are one of the most exciting things to do in Vancouver and can only be experienced off the coast of our beautiful city.
To find out more about the whale watching tours we offer and the marine wildlife you can see, or to book a tour, get in touch with us today. Be sure to follow us in the social world on Facebook or Instagram to keep connected and current on any special events or offers coming up.
See you out on the water!