Question about carnivores in WA State and/or British Columbia, CA

Hi again to the mammal watching community.
Before I get to my question let me not be selfish, and thank everyone for the awesome tips and advice I’ve been getting from everyone!! It’s extremely helpful and I’ve seen more cool mammals over the past 2-3 years than I have in all the rest of my life combined.

Ok – now to my question:
I just booked my tickets to Seattle for a total of 8 days, of which 3-4 I’m spending in Portland visiting friends. So that leaves me with really 4 days to do some mammal watching. I know that ‘s not a long time, but I was thinking of either going to BC in Canada and staying on Vancouver Island, or spending time in Olympic and Mt. Rainier.

I’m kind of leaning towards the former.. But what do you all think?
First of all – never seen a grizzly bear. So I was thinking of doing a Knight Inlet bear tour for a day. But besides Grizzly my main targets are (still) felines – highest priority; Martens and fishers – second priority; Other mustelids tied with wolf – third priority and then other mammals.

Actually I’d skip any other mammal to get a good picture of a puma, lynx or bobcat, with Marten being close behind. So any tips? What can I do in 3-4 days around Vancouver island to maximize my chances of seeing my animals? SHould I just go ahead and do a grizzly tour even though it’s a whole day? Do you see other animals besides grizzly and black bears? Orcas are cool, but I’ve already seen them well, as I have gray and humpback whales, and harbour porpoise. Or does anyone think I should stay in the USA, stay inside Olympic for a few nights and just drive up and down the roads at night? I know fishers are pretty much extinct from Olympic, but I haven’t heard about them being seen on Vancouver Island either.

I’ve read through Jon’s trip report of BC and WA state, and the rest of the reports. One cool thing to note is that all the BC reports by others saw a marten, but they all spent more time there than I can, and only saw 1 or 2 after a few days there.

Any tips, names of good mammal watching guides, or anything else would be highly welcome!!! Also, if anyone is in the area and can/wants to join for a couple of days – then by all means!!

Thanks in advance!


  • Vladimir Dinets

    When are you going? Martens are fairly easy at Crater Lake Lodge in Oregon in winter, but I haven’t seen them at other times of year (not that I’ve been looking particularly hard).

  • tomeslice

    Thanks for the reply, Vladimir!
    I’m actually leaving for my trip next Saturday…

    But when you say “fairly easy” do you mean you can walk around the forest in the middle of the day, and occasionally you see a marten running around on the trees or on the ground, until you’re like “Oh, it’s just ANOTHER marten”? Or “fairly easy” as in “If you hike the _______ trail between 5:45-6:15am, right in the middle of the trail there is a patch of forest where they are sometimes seen if you’re lucky”?

    If the first one is the case, then maybe it’s worth me giving them a call to ask if it’s possible to see in this season, even thought it’s not winter, and maybe spending a night there.

    Anyway, thanks again Vladimir! I can always count on you for some excellent info!!!


    • Joseph McKenna

      Knight’s Inlet is going to be a very long haul from Portland. The tour will launch out of Telegraph Cove which about 6 hours north of Victoria, BC (on the island). So you could be looking at at least a full day or a day and half just to get there.

      If you are in Port McNeil, you should be able to pickup Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, Killer Whales, Pacific White Sided Dolphins, Humpback Whales, Stellar Sea Lions, along with possible River Otter, some squirrel species, Black-tailed Deer, etc.

      Martens are rather tricky. I have seen some in the summer around Garibaldi Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park which is about a 11km hike one way.

      Wolves can some times be seen on the West Coast of Vancouver Island on wildlife trips originating from Tofino.

      Olympic you will pick up Black Bears for sure. Fishers have been re-introduced but I do not know of any sightings by general public. Also in Olympic you will pick up Roosevelt Elk.

      I am in North Vancouver, BC so a bit familiar with the area and the island. Feel free to email with any questions:

    • vdinets

      In winter, there is a small cleared area around the lodge, and martens run through it at least once per night. You can watch it either from the lodge or from a parked car.

  • Coke Smith

    If you can catch a salmon run on the Knight Inlet, you will see grizzlies. But at this time of year – no salmon, no grizzlies. Martens are very common in that area – we saw several over a couple days. Many of them were near the coastal villages near humans. Sitka deer and black bear are common too. But I am not all that familiar with sightings in August. I suspect it would by much more challenging…. If you get to the Olympic Pen, you can see Olympic marmots easily near Obstruction Point just off Hurricane ridge. Olympic chipmunks are easy as well. Lower elevations will get you the Townsend’s chipmunks and maybe a Boomer or two….Columbia deer and elk are easy as well. The Vancouver marmot may be tough in the summer but we got them easily in the spring time. Puma, Lynx and Bobcat are very difficult and are purely a matter of luck. On the Olympic Pen, I’ve seen bobcats many times but never when I was “looking” for them. They’d just pop up when you least expected to see anything. Puma are everywhere but are rarely seen…. I lived in Puma country all my life virtually and have never seen one….I know – sad…. One good thing about August is the weather tends to be unbelievably good! Seas tend to be calm and the experience is sublime… Best of luck! Coke (PS: you mentioned you read the trip reports, so I did not link my specific reports for the area, but in case not – see for more info)

  • tomeslice

    Thanks again guys!
    Coke – I did read both your Knight Inlet and Olympic trip reports a few times in the past (and again this time around) and they’re both pretty awesome. One thing though is that you said right now there is no salmon, but from different websites it sounds like after August 25th it’s the high season! I would be there right around the 30th-sept.1st.. I thought late august and September are prime bear watching seasons. In Olympic, I’ve already actually seen the olympic chipmunks and marmots when I was there with my parents a long time ago (both seen from the Hurricane Ridge visitor center!) and I’ve already seen the elk, deer, black bears etc. But between trying to find martens, grizzlies and cats on vancouver island vs. spending a few nights spotlighting (or at least driving up and down) in olympic’s lower elevation roads for martens and cats (staying at sol duc resort inside the park) which would you recommend? From your reports it sounds like BC is more promising.. Maybe with the exception of bobcats.

    Joseph – I’m leaving Portland and going to Seattle to visit a friend, and then from there I’m thinking of continuing up to BC, so it won’t be one long haul from portland. But anyway my flight back is from Seattle.. I was thinking of staying somewhere on Vancouver island and do a day-trip where they take you to knights inlent.. In Port McNeil, where would I see grizzlies? Is there a specific place you go see them?

    Vladimir – Crater lake actually looks pretty amazing! But it’s too far out of the way, closer to northern california. I’ll have to visit that are whenever I visit Northern Cal (Which I still have to do – sequoia NP and Point Reyes etc.) I know you’re like my wild cat expert – I can’t believe how many pumas you’ve photographed in so many places!!! Do you want to come along and help me find one???? Just kidding. (I did briefly seen one in CR but NO PICTURE 🙁 Never seen a bobcat) Do you know of anything in Olympic or on Vancouver Island? I’m totally down to spend a night in a tree above a trail, but not by myself.. From your website it sounds like vicinity of waterfalls is a good place to look. I also saw a picture on your website from Mt. Rainier – Was it pure luck or is there any methodology to it? That could definitely be an option.

    Anyway, thanks again and I hope to hear back from everyone! I’m still debating whether I’m going to stay in the USA and try some kind of mt rainier/olympic combo OR go to into Canada and do vancouver island.. I guess there are more species I want to see on VI.. Maybe I’ll just do that.

    • vdinets

      No, I don’t have anything special to recommend for Olympic or VI – except that I’ve found Keen’s race of long-eared myotis in hollow Douglas-firs in Cathedral Grove on VI. I don’t know if you’ll find them, but the place is definitely worth visiting, it’s one of the most impressive old-growth forests in the world and right off a highway.

  • Coke Smith

    Hello again Tomes! Yes – I re-read my earlier post and I see what you are saying. My post was ambiguous. Absolutely – if the salmon are on time, late August and early Sep can be the BEST time of year. IF they are late or not there, the bears will stay in the forests and look for berries. But I would say you are pretty safe with the salmon runs, but I always recommend to inquire locally…Try the link in my site and they should have some pretty good information. And since you have done a good job seeing the OP critters, the island would be where I would head! Sounds great either way. And sitting here in my apartment in Shanghai, anything in the great northwestern outdoors sounds fantastic!

  • tomeslice

    Sounds good! I think I will do that then!
    THanks again for the replies.

    PS – Shangai, huh? Nice… China is on my list as well.

  • Jon Hall

    Hi Tomer, I won’t add to what the others have said but just to make sure you realise that there are no Grizzlies on VI (I got the impression you thought there were). If you want to easily see Grizzlies and Wolf then Yellowstone would be one place for that. Have you seen Orcas before – there is great Orca watching on VI though, jon

  • tomeslice

    Hi Jon!
    Yes, I’ve spent some quality time with Orcas at San Juan islands from Port Townsend about a year ago when I was there with my parents.

    I think I knew there were no grizzlies on the island itself, but then I guess I was confused, but now I know for sure! Either way, I was planning on taking the day-tour to Knight Inlet which is where the grizzlies are eating the salmons from the river. It should be just about 100% guarenteed for the grizzlies, with small chances for wolves, river otters, martens, and tiny chances for puma.

    Other than that, I’m probably going to do a little hiking on my own, either in the Green Mountain area per your Website, or on the Pacific Trail.. I’m also wanting to see sea otters and there is a guy off Port Alice that can take me to see them. Also, night driving and a little spot lighting in the northern part of the island I’m ***hoping*** for that marten which is not at all uncommon on the island, and hopefully a puma that will pose for a picture!

    • Jon Hall

      OK that sounds like an awesome trip. I imagine there will be some birding group on VI that will have a list server … you could contact them about Martens. You never know, one of them may have a bird table that one visits daily.

      • tomeslice

        Jon that is an excellent idea!
        How would I find out what birding groups are on the island? It’s a very large island… And what’s a list server? Those questions aside, the concept obviously makes sense, as similar behaviour is exhibited by many other arbroreal mammals with respect to bird feeders!

        P.S. – Needless to mention I’m looking forward to your Ecuador Trip report 😀

  • Jon Hall

    A list server is an email group… I am sure they have many names. But birders often use them to share info. I guess this dude would be a good place to start… drop him an email maybe?… and the Ecuador report should be done by the weekend

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