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Wildlife Viewing in the Similkameen Valley

Are you a wildlife enthusiast? Some of the most fascinating – and rare – birds, reptiles and animals make their home in the Similkameen Valley, making it a prime location for wildlife viewing.

It’s always thrill to see wildlife, one of the true treasures of our valley. We have plenty of wildlife to watch for including bighorn sheep, mountain goats, mule deer, eagles, elk, moose and bears. Princeton’s Swan Lake Nature Reserve offers visitors 15 km of self-guided nature trails and two bird blinds. It is a small lake surrounded by a riparian zone with an abundance of wildflowers and wildlife. Explore the richness of our diverse ecosystem and view the protected grasslands of the Similkameen.

Here are some tips for your wildlife viewing adventure.

Similkameen Valley: Where North Meets South

If you’ve never visited this part of beautiful British Columbia, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover that the region marries two distinct climates.

Here, you’ll find flora and fauna native to the desert further to the eastern end, and as you travel west will find more boreal forest and the wildlife that thrives there.

Perched at the tip of the Sonoran Desert – which stretches down to Mexico – you’ll discover unique species that only call the Similkameen Valley home.

The combination of desert and forest dwellers makes for a rich wildlife experience.

Who will you meet in the Similkameen Valley?

It doesn’t matter what time of year you’re visiting the Similkameen Valley; you’ll find a use for your binoculars—or an excuse to pull over on the side of the road and take in the view up close.

Here are just a few of the residents you’ll encounter on your trip.

1. Mountain Goats

You won’t find another hoofed mammal in North America and few outside it who are so perfectly adept to steep terrain and severe winters.

You’ll find them scaling the rocky cliffs between Hedley and Keremeos, seemingly defying gravity.

British Columbia’s mountain goats are a breed apart – and half the world’s population calls the province their home. 

They don’t have any relatives in North America—their closest cousins hail from Europe and Asia. 

If you’re travelling through the valley in the spring or fall, have someone on the lookout for these nimble cliff dwellers. You’ll be glancing at a species that can be traced back to the Pleistocene ice age.

2. Birds of prey

The Similkameen Valley is home to two imposing raptors – the Golden Eagle and the Bald Eagle.

  • Golden Eagles

These birds of prey can be difficult to spot, but you’ll know them when you see them. At one metre long, boasting a two-metre wingspan, it might feel like a hang-glider is soaring over you.

They hunt marmots and other rodents on the wide-open grasslands of the Similkameen Valley floor, swooping down on their prey with laser precision.

Keep your eyes peeled year-round for these magnificent hunters. They call the valley their home through all four seasons.

  • Bald Eagles

These iconic raptors visit the Similkameen Valley in numbers during the wintertime. You’ll have to be quick to catch them hunting—they can dive at speeds up to 160 kilometres per hour.

With their blazing speed, they can pluck fish out of a lake or stream and snatch marmots off the ground in the blink of an eye.

3. Songbirds

If you’re travelling with family, this is an excellent pastime for young and old alike.

The forests and grasslands in the Similkameen Valley play host to over 250 unique species of birds – from the lyrical Macgillivray’s Warbler to the brilliant Mountain Bluebird.

Before heading into Princeton’s prised bird sanctuary, stop in at the Visitor Centre and pick up their complete list of native and migratory birds, grab your binoculars and work your way through the list.

Pro tips for the best wildlife viewing

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re setting off on your wildlife adventure:

1. Choose your time carefully

Unless you’re fishing, the best time for wildlife viewing is early and late in the day. Most creatures hunker down in the shade during the hot desert days.

2. Be quiet & patient

This might be hard if you have rambunctious little ones along on your trip. But it’s best to set up a chair or spread out a blanket and sit quietly to wait—the wildlife will come to you if you’re sitting peacefully and don’t make too much noise.

3. Be safe & respectful

Be sure to familiarize yourself with any hazards you might encounter during your wildlife viewing adventure. Ask the locals, consult a guidebook and take all the necessary precautions. And remember, you’re visiting their home—treat it as you would treat a friend’s home.

Book your Similkameen Valley adventure

There’s so much to see and do in the Similkameen Valley, whether you’re travelling on your own, with friends or family.

Contact us, and we’ll get you started. We’d love to welcome you to the Similkameen Valley.

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