2022 in review: Wildlife

Wildlife sightings are always anticipated every year, and I have to admit that I look forward to seeing bears most of all. 2022 was a decent year for bear sightings and by far our best year for grizzlies, constituting five of our nine bear sightings. I don’t think we’ve ever seen more than one grizzly in previous years. We also had a grizzly near-miss as we met hikers along the Skoki Valley trail warning us of one, but alas we never saw it. Two sightings were from the car but without doubt the best of our grizzly bear encounters was the mother and two cubs on the last day of our South Chilcotins adventure, even though it was the most distant. Just seeing the three of them in their natural habitat was an amazing experience, especially when you don’t have the protection of a vehicle.

That’s not to say our black bear encounters weren’t good too as we had one particularly close call with a young bear in Minnekhada regional park in July, as it sauntered along the trail towards us. While it wasn’t interested in us (thankfully), it did seem all too comfortable around people, and I sincerely hope that it has learned to avoid humans and not become food-conditioned.

While we couldn’t match the exceptional mountain goat encounters of Cathedral Park last year, we did see two mountain goats. The first put on a heart-stopping display of climbing skills as it scaled a sheer slope, while the second was a more leisurely affair near Lake O’Hara, where we watched it graze a patch of greenery from a comfortable distance. We had some good close-up encounters with marmots and pikas too, especially in the Rockies. On my solo hike to Elk-Thurston, I was stopped in my tracks by a sudden noise from the undergrowth that turned out to be a pair of snowshoe hares chasing each other! No visit to Banff is complete without seeing elk, and we encountered a small maternal herd and a lone bull on the Lake Minnewanka road.

In terms of marine mammals, we saw a handful of sea lions from a distance and lots of seals (we see them frequently down by the beach or in Stanley Park), including one resting right by the Stanley Park seawall. No whales this year but we did see some harbour porpoises from Lighthouse Park.

We saw some cool birds this year including a pair of strutting male spruce grouse in the Rockies that showed no fear of us, a pair of golden eagles that cruised the high meadows near Silent Hub, and a loon swam quite close to us while making its haunting call. It’s always fun to see ptarmigan and watch how they blend into the rocks the moment they stop moving. Back in January a visit to Garry Point Park in Steveston saw us surrounded by a huge flock of noisy snow geese, their numbers filling the sky above us in a quite intimidating sight.

We saw a couple of owls, a barred owl at Burns Bog and a short-eared owl on the Boundary Bay dykes, and a couple of small hawks (Cooper’s?) in the city, in one case alerted to its presence by a pile of feathers on the ground. We see ravens frequently but it’s only on the North Shore that they tolerate close human presence. On Dog Mountain and Mount Seymour we had to pay close attention to our food lest it be stolen, while we had a fun game of hide-and-seek with a raven at St Marks Summit. My favourite bird sightings were a flock of (mountain?) bluebirds near Valentine Lake and a common nighthawk on Jocelyn Hill. The nighthawk was quite dramatic as it repeatedly took off an flew around, sometimes flying right at us while making an intimidating hissing sound. I had to wonder if we were near a nest, and so we didn’t stay long.

Saving the best for last, we had our first ever wolf encounter. We first saw clear tracks in the mud at the edge of a tarn, which was good enough for me – it’s nice to know they’re around. But we’ve seen wolf tracks several times before, including on our South Chilcotins trip in August, so it wasn’t a complete surprise. However, it was the sound of it howling that really made the experience. Sure it would have been great to have seen it, but personally I think hearing that mournful howl left a far greater impression. Even now when I think of it, the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

Oh yeah, and it was a full moon….

2 thoughts on “2022 in review: Wildlife

  1. Awesome photos. Speaking of wolves, check out the book The Grand Lady of Yellowstone. Halfway through it now. You may enjoy it. Plenty of interactions with the grizzly in it too which are enjoyable.

    1. Thanks! And thanks for the book recommendation – I’ve yet to visit Yellowstone but it looks like an incredible place

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