Wildlife We See
Whales, Wildlife & Spectacular Scenery
Barkley Sound Wildlife
Few areas in the world rival the rich mix of wildlife we encounter in Barkley Sound which lies on Ucluelet’s door step. Within a few hours we can see two species of whale, killer whales, harbor porpoises, two species of sea lion, harbor seals, sea otters, black bears, bald eagles, and a variety of sea birds. Although we don’t see every species every day, we see most species each and every day. The exception is the unpredictable killer whales that appear at random.
Animal sightings vary depending on season and year. We record the wildlife we see each day, so feel free to inquire about current sightings.
Click tabs below to learn about wildlife you may see!
In the spring humpback whales appear along our shore. The best season for viewing is July through September. During these months they frequent Barkley Sound, and a whale in sheltered water is always easier to watch than an offshore whale. Aside from our comfort and control, the whales are easier to find inshore. Humpbacks are a favorite as they’re highly acrobatic and often we are lucky enough to see a performance from their bag of tricks.
Unfortunately we have seen few Humpbacks over the last two years. So far 2016 looks promising as humpbacks are returning to the area. We see them often but not daily. We are hopeful as our sightings are more and more frequent.
Each year 35 to 50 gray whales cut short their northward migration to become seasonal residents of Vancouver Island. Whereas over the last two years few have stayed to feed in our area, things look encouraging for 2016. In May and June we saw one or several Gray whales daily and they were feeding, an indicator they would stay. However in early July they left those feeding grounds and sightings have become sporatic rather than predictable. A lot of days we do see Gray whales, however some days we don’t.
Orcas or Killer Whales
Don’t “expect” to see these mammal hunters although you can “hope” to see them. The transient killer whales that frequent our waters are constantly on the move. Their favorite meal is a sea lion or a nice plump seal. Their movements are unpredictable and random. At times we go weeks without seeing them but it is a bonus when we do.
Although plentiful, they’re not easy to see. Unlike many porpoises and dolphins, the harbor porpoise doesn’t believe in midair summersaults. Little backs with fins popping up through the water – this is harbor porpoise watching.
Once hunted to extinction on the BC coast, sea otters were reintroduced in l969. Although not numerous in this area they are making a comeback. We do see sea otters relatively frequently but not daily. Barkley Sound is ideal terrain for them so expect more frequent sea otter sightings in the near future.
Stellar Sea Lions
Thousand kilogram males strut and growl, standing off interlopers, all the while dominating their huge family. Although they change rookeries during the year this dramatic scene is always within our orbit.
California Sea Lions
Only males reside in Canada and come June it’s off to California for sun, surf, sand and sex. Little wonder they lose interest in tourist watching. Reappearing in August, their noisy presence is welcome. We miss them when they’re gone.
They are very different in character from sea lions. There are several rookeries along our route. In the spring we see the mothers with newborn pups and over the summer watch the little ones grow to young adulthood.
(Ursus americanus vancouveri)
Fortunately bears seem to love the area as much as we do, especially in late summer and fall. On average, in the spring bears begin frequenting the beaches and we see them about 40 to 50% of the time. June through October we see them about half to two thirds of the time. Turning over rocks on the beach and feeding on crabs that hide underneath, they are easy to watch. Sows with cubs are common. Since we do not see bears every day, please ask us for an update prior to booking to avoid disappointment if bears are your main focus.
From spring until August the area is packed with Eagles. Their sheer numbers ensure some close up viewing. Barkley Sound has the highest density of resident eagles anywhere in North America. There are several active nests along our route. In August most eagles leave for salmon streams. Enough “Residents” remain behind that we see them daily.
Sea Birds and Shore Birds
We always encounter a variety of sea birds, many of which can’t be seen from shore.
The birds change with the year and the season but here is a list of regular sightings (depending on time of year):
- Great Blue Herons,
- Gulls (Glaucous Winged, California, Mew, Heermann’s),
- Cormorants (Brandt, Double Crested, Pelagic),
- Black Oystercatchers,
- Common Murres,
- Pigeon Guillemots,
- Rhinocerous Auklets,
- Marbled Murrelets,
- Scoters (Surf, White Winged),
- Harlequin Ducks,
- Grebes (Western, Red-necked, Horned)
- Mergansers (Common, Hooded, Red-breasted),
- Loons (Common, Pacific)
- Phalaropes (Wilson’s, Red-necked)
- On occasion we see Pelicans and Puffins.