The forests surrounding the Alberni Valley are diverse with big game animals including deer, Roosevelt elk, black bears, wolves, and cougars. While hiking in the Alberni Valley you have a good chance of seeing deer, bear and even elk, however you will be extremely lucky to catch even a fleeting glimpse of a wolf or cougar. Below are our favourite FOUR on 4 wildlife viewing spots.
1. SPROAT LAKE LANDING BEAVER HABITAT
We affectionately named our papa beaver Fred and we can't remember why! Fred and his family of 4 have build an amazing natural habitat within a few metres and in full view of Drinkwaters Lakeside Deck. Their habitat currently towers over 10 feet high, capable of withstanding the dramatic difference in lake levels between summer and winter. The best times to see the beavers are early morning or late evening or when a local black bear is in the vicinity causing the clapping of their large tails to warn others of danger. Fred is not aware of any other award-winning 4 star restaurant with a natural beaver habitat.
2. BEAR WATCHING on the SOMASS RIVER
Port Alberni’s Victoria Quay offers popular Black Bear watching experience from a safe distance across the river from the Somass Estuary. While it’s possible to see Black Bears at this location from spring through to late fall, the opportunity is best during the months of August, September and October when they are taking advantage of the returning Chinook. Bears can be seen along the Somass from Victoria Quay to the Orange Bridge and sometimes venture all the way to Sproat Lake Landing.
3. SALMON RUN - STAMP FALLS PROVINCIAL PARK
Relax by the waterfall at this peaceful riverside park or explore the area by foot on hiking trails that weave their way through the lush forest, past waterfalls and river rapids. Named for the pioneer who built Port Alberni’s earliest sawmill, this park is an amalgamation of Stamp Falls and Money’s Pool provincial parks.
One of the park’s main attractions is the annual run of thousands of Pacific salmon circling in the pool below Stamp Falls before ascending the fish ladders on their way to spawning beds. Lookout points along the river offer excellent views of the salmon fighting their way up the falls and fish ladders. This natural phenomenon occurs every year, starting in late August with sockeye and continuing with coho and Chinook right into December.
The salmon are a draw for black bear as well, who head to the river for an easy meal. As always when in wilderness areas, safety precautions should be taken.
4. PORT ALBERNI DEER
Black tail deer, and Fallow Deer are plentiful throughout the Alberni Valley. Deer population on Vancouver is almost 100 times from 100 years ago when the regions was settled. This is primarily due to logging which creates ideal grassy feeding areas for deer and due to hunting restrictions in urban areas such as the Alberni Valley.
The deer are quite small, typically 50 to 100 pounds are very frequently seen in Port Alberni neighbourhoods. The deer are notorious for damaging farmed crops, family gardens, and manicured landscapes.