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Wildlife in Whistler (Did Someone Say Bears?)

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No trip to Canada in the summer would be complete without seeing a wild animal of some sort, and in Whistler, our animal is the black bear. While there are opportunities to come across them naturally, taking a Whistler bear tours is an almost guaranteed way to see bears in BC.

You’ve seen them on TV and on the internet but how about seeing a black bear in real life during your next trip to Whistler!

Where (and How) to See Bears in Whistler

Wildlife sightings should happen naturally – there’s no sign of a zoo anywhere in Whistler and there never will be! Wildlife, no matter where in the world, should be respected and given a wide berth so they can stay just that – wild. 

Bears should never be fed human food or lured any closer to get the perfect Instagram shot, a longer camera lens will suffice. Stay safe and keep wildlife safe during these activities where a bear encounter is likely.

The Big Bad Bear Watching Tour

A baby bear peaking through the grass

In spring, be prepared for little ones. In Fall, look for big-adults putting on winter weight.

The best way to see bears in BC is with a Whistler bear tours. Comfortable Land Rovers will take you along to prime bear viewing locations where you can safely view the bears in their natural habitat. It’s the perfect activity to do rain or shine as the bears don’t mind a bit of wet weather and will be out and about regardless. 

Tours depart at sunrise, in the afternoon, and at sunset and take place between May and October. The type of bear you will encounter on your tour will be a black bear who are native to North America and grow to about 1.4 metres long and can weigh up to 300 kilograms. 

They are omnivores and their diet varies greatly depending on the season and location.  Black bears hibernate in the winter so throughout the summer they’re very busy munching away on everything they can before the snow falls. Come see and learn more about Whistler’s favourite animal during Whistler bear tours!

Peak 2 Peak 360 Experience

Black bears love to graze on the lush grassy slopes of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains and luckily, you can view from above as you travel on the Whistler Village Gondola or Blackcomb Gondola towards the top. Keep your eyes peeled for the large bruins that can vary in colour from black to a cinnamon brown. Despite how big they are, they’re easy to be mistaken for tree stumps and are easily camouflaged in the dark forests.

Deer can also be seen grazing along the slopes and often travel in groups, though they camouflage really well in the forest. While hiking the alpine trails on Whistler or Blackcomb, listen for the shrill squeak of a pika or the squeal of a marmot. Whiskey jacks love to chatter overhead in the alpine (hold on to your snacks!) while the eerie caw of the raven echoes through the valley.

Or….Golfing

Black bears love to golf – the succulent golf course grasses, dandelions, and generally quiet surroundings make it the perfect spot for bears to hang out. Book a tee time at one of the three golf courses in town and you may well see one of the freeloaders of the golf course. 

Do not let bear watching interrupt your play, or don’t even think about walking onto the course if you haven’t paid your green fee – leave these majestic beasts in peace. Some of the courses have viewpoints along the Valley Trail so if you’re walking or biking alongside it, you might get lucky but they do tend to retreat deep within the course. 

Whistler Bike Park

For those looking to take it up a notch, downhill mountain biking in the Whistler Bike Park is a great way to experience Whistler’s most popular summer sport. Take a lesson with a certified mountain bike guide or explore the trails on your own, though it is recommended for first timer’s to go up with a guide. 

Black bears and deer love to graze along the grassy mountainside and can often be seen hanging out alongside the trails. They are usually focused on eating and relaxing so don’t get intentionally close – they’re quite used to the mountain bikers zooming by and if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you!

What Other Animals to Expect in Whistler?

Whistler is home to many wild animals and while many are elusive, here are some animals in Whistler you just might see during your trip.

Hoary Marmots

Whistler's namesake the Hoary marmot

Look at this majestic creature! The Hoary marmot.

They are Whistler’s namesake – the town is named after the shrill whistles heard throughout the alpine by these noisy, furry, creatures. The hoary marmot is a large, bulky, ground squirrel with short, heavy limbs and a broad head. 

They’re often seen on summer hikes in the alpine sunning themselves on boulders but keeping a key eye out for danger. They blend in well to their surroundings and don’t move incredibly fast, but you’ll only be able to see them in summer as they hibernate in the winter.

Deer

When riding up the gondola and you might just spot a few deer munching on the grass down below. They tend to be quite shy and like to hang out on the mountain and stay out of the village area. When hiking or biking, you might see them next to the trail but are very skittish. You might be wondering why deer would hang out in an area frequented by black bears but they don’t seem to mind and seem to live harmoniously together. 

Whiskey Jacks

Whiskey Jacks, otherwise known as Grey Jays, are very frequently spotted year-round in the alpine. They’re notorious at the Harmony and Symphony ski lift lines hoping to snag a piece of someone’s granola bar or trail mix – but do resist as it does interfere with the ecosystem and can make the birds ill. Simply hold out your hand or ski pole and one might stop by for a brief moment.

Beavers 

One of Canada’s most iconic creatures can be found in Whistler swimming in the lakes and rivers and building dams along the waterways. You’ll often see them during a sunset paddleboard session on Alpha Lake or along the River of Golden Dreams. The beaver works as a keystone species in an ecosystem by creating wetlands that are used by other animals. Beavers do not hibernate and stay cozy in their beaver lodges throughout the winter before emerging again once the lakes and rivers melt again.

Pika

Another squeaky and super cute rodent often seen (and heard) in Whistler is the pika. They’re found in boulder fields in the mountains and in the valley and have a very distinguishable sound. They look like a mix between a rabbit and a hamster with a small fluffy body with short rounded ears. They spend the summers gathering food to eat during the winter as they do not hibernate. Often where you’ll see a marmot is where you’ll find pika as well!

A Quick Note on Bear Safety in Whistler

Bear wandering through the forest

Learn all about bears before heading into the woods

Black bears have become more habituated and act more comfortable around humans, but that is still no reason to get too close or make them feel threatened. 

Here is what to do if you see a black bear in Whistler:

  • Travel in groups and make noise
  • Respect its need for personal space and give it a wide berth. Consider turning around and going back the way you came.
  • If the bear is in close contact, speak to it in a calm, appeasing tone and back away slowly. Walk, don’t run, and keep an eye on the bear to see how it reacts as it will likely flee.
  • Never ever feed a bear and always store food safely away when camping in bear caches or in your car.

Seeing a bear is a highlight of any visitor’s trip to Whistler so why miss the chance when you could partake in Whistler bear tours to get you up close and personal with the famous bears. Not only will you capture tons of photo and video footage, you’ll also learn all about them from professional guides who can answer all your burning questions.

If you’re leaving it to chance – best of luck, you just might see one when you least expect it. If not, there’s plenty of gift shops selling postcards, paintings, and plush black bears for you to take home to friends and family!