"The wolf howled his mourning from
down in the meadow all night long.”
From California Big Horn Sheep around Sheep Creek and Farwell
Canyon, to the rarely seen cream or white Kermode or 'Spirit
Bear' found only on a few islands and in the deep undergrowth
of the coastal rainforest, the Chilcotin has a large array
of big game animals.
In the early part of the last century around 1914, moose
began to move into the Chilcotin. Prior to that, the Native
Aboriginals didn't even have a name for the animal and in
fact, called it Mowich, the same as what they called a deer.
The first white man to identify the animal was a storekeeper
that had moved from Northern BC where he had worked as a trader
for the Hudson Bay Company. Fred Becher had set up a trading
post at Riske Creek and he recognized the mysterious animal
as a moose when hide and horns were brought to him at the
By the 1930's, it's said that moose had overrun the country
but that many died off during a harsh winter in the 1950's.
There are still quite a few around though, and you'll often
see them along the treeline or in meadows along Highway 20
if you keep a sharp eye out.
The Itcha Illgatchuz mountain ranges support the largest
and healthiest herd of Woodland Caribou in British Columbia.
In fact, other regions of the Province periodically transplant
cows from here to areas where predators have set back the
herd numbers. It's not uncommon to see small caribou herds
down on Charlotte and Nimpo Lakes in the winter and if you
fly during that season, you'll see their tracks everywhere.
In summer, they return to their range in the mountains where
trail riders often see them from horseback.
The West Chilcotin supports large numbers of Black Bears
and Grizzly Bears and they're often seen along the rivers
fishing. If you would like to see a bear, Highway 20 West
from Anahim Lake to the Fisheries Pond in Tweedsmuir Park
at the foot of the Bella Coola Hill is a good place to start.
You will often see Black and Brown Bears feeding along the
highway and many bears start moving out of the high country
down to the Atnarko and Bella Coola River during the salmon
runs. You may see grizzlies fishing in one of the rivers,
or patrolling the shoreline for salmon carcasses. Tsylos Provincial
Park also reports a large number of bears in the area, probably
because of the plentiful fish in the nearby Chilko River.
Some of the Member operators listed on this website offer
wildlife tours and bear watching, including looking for the
white Spirit Bear. Many can take you into more remote areas
where the likelihood of seeing wild animals is much higher,
and the photographic opportunities much better.
Most of the Chilcotin supports huge deer populations with
Mule deer more likely to be found throughout, while Whitetail
populations can be found mostly around the Tatlayoko Valley
area. There too you will find their main predator, the cougar.
Since the West Chilcotin has a large number of mountain ranges,
it also supports Mountain Goats. For an animal that is nearly
pure white and of some size, you would think it would be easy
to spot them standing on the side of a cliff or peak, but
they're actually well camouflaged in their terrain. However,
keep an eye out because just about anywhere there's a peak
or rocky cliff, there's potential for seeing a Mountain Goat.
The Chilcotin is wild country with very little encroachment
from outside and as a result, is still home to large wolf
populations. In addition, the wolverine, which is rarely seen
in North America, is not uncommon in this area, although it's
more easily spotted in winter than in summer. We also have
a very large population of the shy Lynx.
Smaller fur bearing animals include Coyote, Marten, Fox,
Mink, Marmot and squirrels.
The high altitude plateau that makes up much of the West
Chilcotin does not support exotic song birds, but the birds
it does have are magnificent. Predator birds include hawks,
owls, Osprey, and the Bald Eagle. Our area is also home to
the Trumpeter Swan which was brought back from the brink of
extinction by Ralph Edwards of Lonesome Lake who homesteaded
in a long valley now within Tweedsmuir Park.
The Chilcotin also supports a nesting colony of the American
White Pelican at Stum Lake and Anahim Lake is a major feeding
waterway for them. There are Blue Herons, grebes, terns, geese,
ducks, teal, the unusual Barrow's Goldeneye, merganser, gulls,
sandhill cranes, and numerous other species of waterfowl.
A true barometer of the good health of a lake is the loon
and it's a favorite of most visitors. Best known for it's
maniacal laugh the bird populates many of the lakes in the
Chilcotin and provides hours of evening enjoyment for those
sitting around a campfire, listening to the breeding pairs
calling out to one another.
Woodland birds include at least three species of woodpecker,
including the huge and rare Pileated Woodpecker, grouse, ptarmigan,
Cedar Waxwing, chickadees, Whiskey Jacks, Nutcracker, red
winged blackbirds, mountain blue bird, tree, cliff, and barn
swallows, flickers, and Rufous hummingbirds. Some small songbirds
migrate through on their way north or to the the Coast. Those
can include Grosbeaks, redpolls, purple finch, goldfinch,
Pine Siskin and dark eyed Junco to name a few that pass through.
And of course, you can't forget the ever present and wily