British Columbia: Wildlife

Submitted by The Catt-Trax2 Team on Mon, 2007/01/15 - 4:02pm.
Report prepared by Jenny Ma and Jo-Leen Sellars, Students in BCIT’s Fish, Wildlife and Recreation program.

There are 488 bird species in British Columbia. To get a sense of the variety among this species, let’s look closely at three of these birds: the peregrine falcon, rufous humming bird, and the common loon.

The peregrine falcon, with flying speeds up to 300 km/h and specially designed nostrils to breathe at such speeds, is the fastest bird on Earth. Since 1999, this bird has been on the threatened species list (blue list). Before then, the farmers and commercial food industries were spraying their fields with insecticides to kill the bugs and this started to thin the shells of birds’ eggs. The falcon was most affected and the population crashed to almost extinction, so the government gave Alberta funding to raise them in captivity then release them into the wild.

Another speed demon is the rufous humming bird. It has the fastest wing beats of any bird species and it can fly backwards. They never perch while feeding they just hover in the air. The sound of their beating wings is like the buzzing of a big bumble bee. Their wings have shiny orange or green markings that shimmer.

A bird with black and white markings that cries in the sunset is the common loon. This is a common bird and its image is seen everywhere on camping commercials, camping gear, and on the Canadian dollar coin — the loonie. The cutest thing this bird does is carry its young on its back while swimming through the water. Its legs are situated so far back that it cannot walk on land properly. Its body is built for diving.

Reptiles are also common in B.C. The long-toed salamander hangs around in moist areas and near non-fish-bearing streams. If they were to hang around fish they would be eaten as would their eggs. The adults like to spend the majority of their time underground feeding on invertebrates.

The rough-skinned newt is of the salamander family who also eats invertebrates but these creatures are toxic. This newt has an orange belly that predators recognize as toxic. When the newt is in distress it releases tetrodotoxin which can kill a person if they ingest it. The toxin blocks nerve impulses and has a paralyzing affect. Like all salamanders and other newts, they can grow their severed limbs back.

Unfortunately for the northern leopard frog, they cannot grow back their limbs but they do lay 1,000 to 5,000 eggs to compensate for their high mortality rate. Their enemies are herons, snakes, turtles, fish, and larger frogs.

The two other groups of wildlife are mammals and reptiles. There are about 133 species of mammals within B.C. and eighteen species of reptiles.

Three-fourths of Canada’s mammal species are found here, twenty-four of which are exclusive to B.C. The terrestrial mammals include hoofed mammals – the deer family and the cattle family, carnivores, and rodents. The hoofed mammals include (in the deer family) mule deer, white-tailed deer, fallow deer, elk, caribou, and moose. In the cattle family we have the bison, the bighorn sheep, Dall’s sheep, and the Mountain goat. Some carnivores roaming throughout B.C. include the cat and dog families and our great bears: the grizzly bear and the black bear. Within the cat family there are cougars, lynx, and bobcats. Members of the dog family include wolves, coyotes, and the red fox. Amongst our many rodents, the beaver and the Vancouver Island marmot are significant.

B.C.’s reptiles include snakes, lizards, and turtles. Reptiles differ from birds and mammals in that they do not operate or create heat with their bodies – they use heat from the environment. There are nine native species of snakes:

  • the common garter
  • the north western garter
  • the rattlesnake
  • the Great Basin gopher
  • western yellow-bellied racer
  • wandering garter
  • night snake
  • sharp-tailed snake
  • the rubber boa

There are four species of lizards:

  • European wall lizard (introduced)
  • pigmy short-horned Lizard
  • western alligator lizard
  • the western skink

The five species of turtle include:

  • western painted turtle
  • northern Pacific pond turtle
  • Pacific Green Turtle
  • Pacific leatherback turtle
  • the red-eared slider
British Columbia’s rich variety of wildlife makes it Canada’s most biologically diverse province.
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