An insider’s guide to bear watching in Canada

Bear watching

In Canada, wildlife comfortably outnumbers people. With so many creatures roaming the wilds, it may come as no surprise that Canada is home to 60% of the world’s entire bear population. Of all the outdoor activities that Canada offers, bear watching is one of the best and most rewarding experiences. There are many opportunities to spot native bears, particularly if you know where to look. While most people will only ever dream of getting up close and personal with these wild animals, in many parts of Canada, big bears are a part of everyday life. Here, our Canada Specialist Paul shares his inside knowledge on bear watching in Canada.

Call Paul on 020 3553 0848 for help planning a bear watching adventure of your own.

Grizzly bear

Grizzly bear

The grizzly bear is a subspecies of the brown bear and takes its name from the fuzzy appearance created by the white tips on its fur. They live in a vast area stretching through Russia, Asia, Europe and into North America, but one of the best places to see the grizzly bear is in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia. The best time to visit is from late August to early October, during the salmon run, although sightings from May onwards are possible. Solitary in nature, grizzly bears like to keep a low profile, making them difficult but very rewarding to spot in the wild.

We recommend a stay at Great Bear Lodge, a unique floating lodge accessible only by floatplane. With a maximum occupancy of 16 people, the lodge provides an incredible opportunity to experience the stillness and solitude of this magnificent rainforest. This spot is ideal for getting up close to the bears and witnessing other fascinating Canadian wildlife in a remote environment, including wolves, bald eagles and orcas.

Black bear

Black bear

Regular black bears are ubiquitous in western Canada and, with a bit of luck, can be seen almost anywhere from the Rockies to the coast. Less shy than grizzlies, black bears like open spaces, making them easier to spot. These bears can live for up to 30 years and their only real predators in the wild are grizzly bears and wolves. Despite their name, they can actually range in colour from very light through most shades of brown, to jet-black. They can usually be distinguished from brown bears by their smaller size and bigger ears.

Vancouver Island offers many day tours in towns such as Tofino and Campbell River and these include lunch, an expert guide and around 4-5 hours bear viewing. These tours focus on the inter-tidal areas between the forests and the shoreline, where black bears forage for crustaceans on the rocky shore.

Spirit bear

Spirit bear

The spirit bear, or Kermode as it is officially known, is in fact a subspecies of the black bear. This elusive white bear is found exclusively in British Columbia, and almost all of them live in the Great Bear Rainforest. This rare species is not easy to spot, so you’ll need to be game for a bit of physical activity, but it’s worth it for an out of this world experience that will be memorable forever. For the best chance of gaining a sighting of the spirit bear, we recommend visiting in September or October for a minimum of 4 nights.

Spirit Bear Lodge offers one of the most unique and rewarding bear safaris in the whole of Canada, giving you an experience you will never forget. Situated in the small fishing village of Klemtu on Swindle Island, you will find yourself in a peaceful and secluded environment, surrounded by the rainforest.

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