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The Bear Necessities of British Columbia

As winter segues into spring and summer, Canada’s fascinating wildlife comes out to play, as Katrina Lobley writes.

As Canada’s snow melts away, it’s not only humans who emerge from hibernation. The country’s famous wildlife is also out and about. Grizzly and black bears start foraging on new spring growth to build up the fat layers they’ll need when their next winter hiatus comes around. The bears might also raid a few squirrels’ nut stashes as they wait for summer berries to ripen on bushes.

While it’s possible to see bears foraging in the wild at remote lodges such as Great Bear Lodge, tucked into an inlet along the central British Columbian coast, visitors to Vancouver can find wild things right on the city’s doorstep. Our 5 Day Great Bear Experience Extension is an immersive way to see these furry creatures in the wild. 
Bear and Bear Cub spotting from boat, Great Bear Lodge, Canada

Grouse Mountain, which forms a majestic backdrop to the city, features a wildlife refuge with two famous residents. Grinder is the refuge’s alpha grizzly – he was found wandering along a logging road in 2001 in such poor condition that he was no heavier than a cat. Easygoing Coola was orphaned when his mother was hit by a truck that same year. Throughout summer, visitors can ascend Grouse Mountain early to breakfast with these bears. The human menu includes favourite bear fare such as salmon, along with bear claws (the pastry, not actual bear claws)

Two bears in water at the Great Bear Lodge, Canada
Bears also loom large in eastern British Columbia. Take a safari along the Blue River, winding through the aptly named Grizzly Bear Valley 210 kilometres south-west of Jasper, and look for one of the valley’s namesake creatures. Bears might be the drawcard but passengers can also spy moose, deer and eagles here. Set off on an extraordinary River Safari on our 19 Day Passage Through the Rockies and Alaska Cruise.
Couple on Blue River Safari Cruise, Canada
Wildlife enthusiasts can combine the majesty of western Canada and the Rockies with a cruise to Alaska that weaves among the remote islands of the Inside Passage. Just west of Juneau, Alaska’s capital, is the World Heritage-listed Glacier Bay National Park where bears go for solitary rambles along the beaches. The bay’s cold, nutrient-rich waters also attract schooling fish, which in turn attract hungry humpbacks – known for their dramatic acrobatic displays.
Snow capped mountains, Glacier Bay, Alaska
As well as looking, remember to listen: you might hear the growls of dappled harbour seals as up to 1700 of them converge each summer in Johns Hopkins Inlet, near the park’s border with Canada. A wolf might howl from a distant spot or a moose could grunt while standing knee-deep in flooded meadows.
Mature moose with large antlers sitting amongst the autumn foliage
Perhaps the cutest specimen in this area, though, is the sea otter, which eats, bathes and sleeps while floating on its back. Glacier Bay’s sea otter population has rebounded from zero to almost 9000 over the past two decades. You can hear the call of the wild – and more – on your next Canada and Alaska adventure such as our 23 Day Rockies and Alaskan Adventure.