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BC's abundant wildlife

British Columbia is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including three-quarters of Canada’s mammal and bird species. A huge province and biodiversity hotspot spanning many ecosystems, more than 4,000 known plant and animal species are recognized here.


The province of British Columbia in Canada is home to a huge and diverse range of distinct ecosystems and wildlife, including three-quarters of Canada’s mammal and bird species. More than 4,000 known plant and animal species are recognized here.

A source for wildlife

BC is a source for rare, often wide-ranging, wildlife, some of which cross the border into the US since wild animals, in their movements, are unperturbed by borders. We Americans who love wildlife would be bereft without the vast, still wild, lands in British Columbia.

  • The Pacific fishers reintroduced to the Olympic Peninsula by Conservation Northwest and others, were live-trapped from healthy populations in Canada. Fishers, native originally to Washington, were lost to the state in the early 1900s.
  • Many of the wolves that have returned on their own to Washington State we now know from DNA testing came originally down from Canada.
  • Moose are making a dramatic comeback in the Pacific Northwest, immigrating from north of the border.
  • It’s entirely possible that recovery of grizzly bears in Washington’s Cascades and Selkirk Mountains will hinge on the movement of bears into the state from coastal and interior BC.
  • One of the most endangered North America’s large mammals—mountain caribou—is found in northeastern Washington and the Idaho Panhandle because British Columbia's South Selkirks herd ranges naturally across the border and into our state.

A source in trouble

Though wildlife and habitat still largely fare better in Canada than in US states to the south, some animals in BC are in serious  trouble. For example, northern spotted owls, icons of BC old growth, have plummeted to a mere 17 birds as their old-growth habitat has been squandered

Although BC has many protected parks, they are often relatively small and isolated one from the other. Such ecosystem "fragments" act like islands, with shrinking populations isolated from one another by vast seas of roads and development.

Several ecosystems and their wildlife are unique to BC, and these areas are also threatened. For example, only 10% of the antelope brush/needle-and-thread grass community remains in the South Okanagan-Similkameen of south-central BC, development and conversion of wild lands to vineyards is a growing problem here. This area is ranked as one of the four most endangered ecosystems in Canada.

In the US, we have the Endangered Species Act, perhaps the most powerful safety net for wildlife in the world. Canada has no real equivalent law or protections for wild animals. A grizzly bear, for example, protected by the ESA in the lower 48 states becomes at risk to an open hunting season once crossing the border with Canada. This needs to change and Conservation Northwest is working with many Canadian conservation groups to call for a species at-risk act with teeth.


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