Embarking on the third installment of our Wild Pledge series, we shift our gaze towards an inherent part of Northern Vancouver Island – the diverse wildlife and pristine habitats. For those of you who are first-time Vancouver Island North readers, this Wild Pledge story series shares practical tips and tricks for how we, as travellers, can commit to responsible tourism and conscious travel within the stunning landscapes and vibrant communities of Vancouver Island. In the first two posts, we explored the crucial aspects of leaving no trace and engaging thoughtfully with local communities. Now, we turn our focus towards the delicate balance of ecosystems and the need for conscious, non-invasive exploration. Let’s jump in!
What wildlife and natural habitats to expect
Before exploring the North Island, it’s essential to familiarize ourselves with the various wildlife and plant species that dwell here, enhancing our awareness and respect for these natural residents. Throughout the year, you can expect to see Eagles adorning the expansive skies, Herons, among other seabirds, and possibly even wolves finding solace along the rugged shorelines. Looking at the ocean waters, you might spot lively Sea Lions and spirited Dolphins, not forgetting the occasional appearances of Humpback and Orca whales, particularly from summer to fall. Journeying into our ancient rainforests, look out for the striking stands of Sitka Spruce, Western Red Cedar, and other towering giants. From the awakening of spring to the mellowing of fall, it’s not uncommon to see a roving black bear, drawn to the salmon and berry buffets.
Practical examples and tips for observing without disturbing
Best Practice: Book a Guided Tour
The single best way to ensure we observe wildlife safely and responsibly is to book a guided tour. These experiences, led by knowledgeable guides with a thorough understanding of local wildlife and habitats, follow strict guidelines to minimize our impact on the flora and fauna we encounter. Further, they ensure we follow the protective local rules and regulations, such as Canada’s Marine Mammal Regulations. By opting for guided tours, we transition from being mere spectators that could potentially harm without meaning to, to active participants, helping in the conservation of our wild spaces. Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures, Maple Leaf Adventures, Coastal Rainforest Safaris, and Indigenous-led Sea Wolf Adventures are amongst some of our favourites for guided nature tours within Northern Vancouver Island.
Observe wildlife from a safe distance
If you spot wildlife while not on a guided tour, firstly, soak it all in; these are extraordinary moments! After pinching yourself, remember to keep a respectful distance, no matter how much you wish you could get a closer photo. Maintaining 100 metres is a good rule of thumb. This distance, along with quietness, safeguards both our safety and theirs while maintaining the integrity of their natural behaviours. Learn wildlife viewing etiquette from our partners at the Marine Educuation and Research Society (MERS) and the North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association (NIMMSA). Although the prospect of human-wildlife conflict is small, it’s never zero. Brush up on your safety tips for each animal species by visiting BC’s Parks’ Wildlife Safety.
Be respectful of natural cycles
When heading out on an adventure, it’s also important to recognize the time of year. Wildlife’s sensitivity to human intrusion significantly heightens during periods such as mating, nesting, raising their young, or enduring the harsh winter. Our actions can have amplified consequences during vulnerable seasons, so it’s best to avoid wildlife during these sensitive times. For instance, startling a rodent during winter can exhaust the vital energy it needs to survive the harsh season. Similarly, our presence might lead to an animal deserting their young. Or, on an even smaller level, picking flowers in spring, while seemingly harmless, could disrupt the plant’s propagation potential while also removing a critical food source for insects and other animals.
Never feed wildlife
Feeding wild animals not only promotes unhealthy dependencies but also introduces unfamiliar items into their diet that could have unintended consequences. While it may seem obvious not to feed animals like bears, this is also the case for smaller animals like birds and squirrels. Never feed wildlife!
Securely store enticing smells
One way we can ensure we don’t accidentally feed wildlife is to be mindful of our food, garbage, and items with enticing scents like toiletries. Leaving these in human spaces such as campsites, beaches, trails, and even neighbourhoods, encourages wildlife to visit which not only changes their natural feeding patterns but can lead to dangerous situations for both the animals and people. Ensure you store food and trash securely, in a locked vehicle, a hard-sided trailer, a bear-proof canister, or a storage locker that is not easily accessible by wildlife. If you are in the backcountry, techniques such as properly constructed food hangs can help keep your food away from curious animals. Learn more in our leave no trace chapter.
Pets: Our Companions, Our Responsibility
No one loves adventuring more than our four-legged friends, and while it’s enriching to have them beside us, they should be kept on a leash, picked up after, and controlled at all times. This isn’t just for the sake of other visitors who might not share the same enthusiasm for your beloved Fido, but also for the island’s wildlife and ecosystems. Northern Vancouver Island boasts unique and diverse species that could easily be disturbed or provoked by unleashed pets. Even the most well-behaved furry friends can have unpredictable reactions in unfamiliar environments. Thus, by ensuring they are under control, we protect the serene wilderness, fellow explorers, and our pets alike.
Through these simple acts of consideration, we help preserve the incredible wildlife and lush habitats that grace Vancouver Island. Share your responsible adventure experiences with our hashtag #ForTheGoodOfOurWild and keep your mind open for our next chapter in the Wild Pledge series which is all about being prepared.