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Birding & Wildlife Viewing in Fernie

Last updated January 2022

The diversity of ecosystems in and around Fernie, BC provide unrivalled wildlife viewing opportunities

Discover Wildlife in Fernie

The variety and quality of ecosystems near Fernie make an ideal area for wildlife viewing. Some animals are common, while others such as Bear, Beaver and Moose are more recluse and less likely to be seen.

Each of these unique ecosystems provides distinctive food, shelter and characteristics for wildlife habitat amidst humans living, recreating and working. Explore each area and discover the variety of wildlife rarely found elsewhere in the world.

Explore These Ecosystems

1. Montane Forest: Fairy Creek Falls Trail & Montane Trails

Start at the Fernie Visitor Centre on Hwy 3 east of town and follow the hiking trail signs to Fairy Creek Falls. For Montane Trails, take Pine Avenue past the Aquatic Centre then take Coal Creek Road. Start from the first bridge on your right near the old barn, and follow the trail signs.

Montane forests are located in the drier valley bottom with mixed deciduous and coniferous trees and open meadows.

Look for: Varied Thrush, Columbia Ground Squirrel, Mule Deer, Rocky Mountain Elk, Coyotes

2. Riparian Forest: Along the Elk River, around Maiden Lake and McDougall wetland

Start at Maiden Lake on 9th Avenue and 19th Street, located behind Canadian Tire and Independent Grocer’s. If you have time include Annex Park and more of the Community Trail network along the Elk River.

Riparian areas transition from the Elk River to drier uplands.

Look for: Great Blue Herons, Common Grackle, Osprey, Northern Flicker, Moose, Amphibians

3. Wetland: West Fernie

Take McDonald Avenue east of Highway 3 on the west side of town and turn south on to Eckersley Street. Take the trail west along the Elk River.

Wetlands store water with adapted plants and animals.

Look for: Red-Winged Blackbirds, Beaver, Long-toed Salamanders, Western Painted Turtles

4. Subalpine Forest: Mount Fernie Provincial Park, Fernie Alpine Resort

Explore the trails at Mt Fernie Provincial Park or at Fernie Alpine Resort (FAR). Subalpine forests cover the slopes leading to mountain top Alpine.

Look for: Red Squirrels, Steller’s Jay, Pika (rocky slopes), American Pine Marten

5. Old Growth Forest: Island Lake Lodge

Follow Mount Fernie Provincial Park Road past the campground to the Old Growth Trailhead parking area (approximately 6km west of Highway 3) and hike through these rare giants to Island Lake Lodge. Pick up an Island Lake Trail Map for more trail options.

To the west of Fernie is the Cedar Valley Old Growth Reserve enroute to Island Lake, one of the last remaining stands of ancient temperate rainforests in BC’s Interior.

Look for: Townsend’s Warbler, Pacific Wren, Black and Grizzly Bears, Mountain Goats

Wildlife Viewing Tips

Dawn and dusk are the best times, but always keep your eyes open.

Be quiet and keep pets under control or ideally leave them at home. Wildlife will consider dogs predators and quickly disappear.

Stand quietly in one place where you might expect to see wildlife. Close your eyes and listen. Then watch and observe.

Give wildlife space. Keep your distance so that adults are not scared away from maternal care leaving young vulnerable to predators. Instead, use binoculars or spotting scope to get a closer look.

Be wildlife aware. Use appropriate caution and learn about avoiding conflicts before you venture into wildlife areas. For more information visit

Recommended Books & Apps:

Elk River Map Guide

Handbook of the Canadian Rockies by Ben Gadd Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia & Inland Northwest by Lloyd, Antos, Coupe & Parish Backroad Mapbook, Kootenay Rockies BC iBird Pro App: North America