Watching the magnificent grizzly bear in their natural habitat is on most people’s bucket list. These impressive animals weigh up to 900lb (408kg) and stand up to 6ft (1.8m) tall! Most visitors on Vancouver Island want to know when is the best time to see grizzly bears, and where to see them.
Are there grizzly bears on Vancouver Island?
Yes! Grizzly bears have been spotted on Vancouver Island, but they typically don’t stick around for very long. A handful are sighted every year between Campbell River and Port Hardy. They are known to swim over from the mainland, island hopping as they go. We’ve seen them swimming across channels near Sayward, only 1hr north of Campbell River!
However, sightings are rather infrequent on Vancouver Island. The vast majority of grizzlies are sighted on the mainland of British Columbia, and only at certain times of the year.
SPRING GRIZZLY BEAR VIEWING
In the spring, after waking up from their winter hibernation, coastal grizzly bears need to replenish their diet. They travel to the coast to feed on protein-rich sedge grasses in estuaries. They can also be seen flipping over rocks in the intertidal zone in search of marine life like barnacles, mussels, and gunnels.
Grizzly bear feeding on succulent grasses.
They can be seen in the intertidal zone of the mainland from mid-April until early July. Our spring wildlife tours often search for grizzlies and black bears on beaches!
Once the warmth of summer hits, the grizzlies leave the coast and travel inland to feed on the plentiful berries that have just ripened. They’re not often seen on the coast after July.
Fall Grizzly Bear Viewing
Fall is the prime time for grizzly bear viewing in British Columbia! After a summer of feeding on berries inland, they’re ready to start fattening up for their winter hibernation.
In August, salmon are ready to travel from the ocean into their natal rivers to spawn. Once rainfalls raise the levels of the rivers, they begin their final journey upriver.
The grizzly bears converge at these coastal rivers and begin to feast on the plentiful spawning salmon. Males, females, and cubs can be spotted fishing for salmon surrounded by dense forest and the mainland mountains.
By November, the bears are ready for hibernation.
A grizzly bear catches a coho salmon in the Orford River. Photo by Andy Scheffler.
CAMPBELL RIVER GRIZZLY BEAR TOURS
We run Grizzly Bear Expeditions from Campbell River every fall. From the end of August until mid-October, we run daily tours to the remote wilderness of the mainland in search of grizzlies!
We travel by boat deep into Bute Inlet where countless grizzlies are feeding on the spawning salmon in the Orford River. Local Indigenous guides take you up the river by bus to look for these magnificent bears from raised viewing towers and prime ground viewing locations.
On the 2 hour boat ride there, you can find humpback whales, killer whales (orcas), dolphins, sea lions, bald eagles, and more.
Book your Grizzly Bear Expedition and join us for the wildlife tour of a lifetime!