Wildlife on Mount Washington and Vancouver Island

The Vancouver Island marmot is one of the most rare species in the world, listed as Endangered and found only on the island. Vancouver Island marmots are easy to recognize by their rich chocolate brown fur with contrasting white patches on their nose, chin, forehead and chest. They live on south & west facing slopes of alpine meadows usually above 1000m. Keep an eye out for marmots on the slopes of Mount Washington in the summer months only – they hibernate from mid-September until late April or early May! Hibernation helps these furry creatures survive the alpine winters when food is not readily available.

The Vancouver Island marmot is certainly the most famous animal on Vancouver Island, and perhaps is even the most famous endangered animal in Canada. Threatened by habitat loss, wolves, cougars, and natural attrition, efforts are currently underway to rebuild the population. As of early 2008, it was estimated that approximately 90 individuals existed in the wild, with 160 in captive breeding programs.

Black bears can be found across Vancouver Island (and much of North America), in all kinds of terrain from remote territories to urban area. The Vancouver Island population is generally blacker and slightly larger than those found on the mainland. Black bears are omnivores and will eat just about anything that is available to them, from berries, insects, nuts and grasses to meat like deer and elk. In BC especially, bears will gorge on spawning salmon in late summer and autumn as they prepare for winter hibernation. Black bears vary in colour from a deep black to cinnamon (there are even white Kermode bears on BC's central coast), but if you spot one on Mount Washington you can be assured it is a black bear – there are currently no grizzlies on Vancouver Island.

Blacktailed deerBLACK TAILED DEER
The deer of Vancouver Island are a subspecies of mule deer found along the coast from northern California up into British Columbia. Black tailed deer are very common on the island, and can be regularly spotted in urban and rural areas along with nature parks and forests. Many deer have become well-acclimated to living with humans and forage readily on lawns, as well as enjoying the safety from predators that urban living can provide.

Once widespread throughout southern British Columbia, the vast majority of BC's Roosevelt elk now live exclusively on Vancouver Island, after human activity and expansion slowly extinguished the mainland elk population. The largest of the elk family, the Roosevelt elk can reach 500kg (male) at maturity, and lives for approximately 12-15 years. They migrate locally, moving to lower browsing sites as the winter approaches, and heading upwards into subalpine areas with young, seasonal growth in the late spring. The Roosevelt elk grazes on grasses & new shoots during the warm months, and browses smally woody plants in the winter.

On the slopes of Mount Washington, the Gray Jay is more commonly called the Whiskey Jack, and can be spotted year round flitting through the trees to perch on railings and roofs in search of a snack. These cheerful little birds are fearless and their venturesome behaviour both amuses and annoys visitors to the alpine.

KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR OTHER BIRDS TOO – ptarmigan, woodpeckers, chickadees

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