British Columbia, often referred to as simply BC, is the westernmost province of Canada. Located on the north Pacific coast of the North American continent, BC borders the US state of Alaska on its northwestern corner and extends inland to the Canadian Rocky Mountains where it meets the province of Alberta. The Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories of Canada border it to the north and its southern border abuts the US states of Washington, Idaho and Montana. BC is Canada’s third most populated province.
British Columbia is generally divided into three regions: the Coast, the Lower Mainland and the Interior.
The Coast Region includes about 40,000 islands varying in size from tiny Mudge Island at 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) long to Vancouver Island stretching 290 miles (460 kilometers) long. Including all the islands, rugged inlets and mountain fjords, the coast runs nearly 17,000 miles (27,000 kilometers) long. The region includes the Insular Mountains, which make up most of Vancouver Island, and the Coast Mountains, which extend into Alaska and the Yukon Territory.
The Lower Mainland commonly applies to Vancouver and the region surrounding it. More than half of BC’s total population lives in this region. And half of the province’s most populous municipalities are found in the Lower Mainland. Besides the Vancouver area, the name Lower Mainland has been applied to a region encompassing everything from Horseshoe Bay south to the US border and eastward through the Fraser Valley to the Cascade Mountains. The Coast Mountains create the northern boundary
The Interior includes everything inland from the Coast Mountains in the west to the Canadian Rocky Mountains in the east. Between these mountain ranges is the Interior Plateau with its dry inland forests, flanked by the semi-arid valleys of the mountain areas. Canyons and sagebrush grasslands typify its most southern reaches. Its northeastern sector includes British Columbia’s prairie section, called the Peace River Block. Its northern half is often referred to simply as “the North” and features boreal forests and subarctic prairies.
Largest city: Vancouver
Conservation Department: Wildlife & Habitat Branch of the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
Licenses and Regulations: Hunting in BC
Outfitter Association: Guide Outfitter Association of British Columbia
For purposes of wildlife management and hunting, the Wildlife & Habitat Branch of British Columbia’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development divides the province into nine administrative regions.
- Region 1 – Vancouver Island
Encompassing about 12,407 square miles (32,134 square kilometers) Vancouver Island is the largest island on the West Coast of North America. It stretches about 290 miles (460 kilometers) long and 62 miles (100 kilometers) wide at its widest point. It is perhaps best known by hunters for its high-density black bear population. Outfitters and guides regularly produce record book quality bears for their clients here. Most of Canada’s Roosevelt elk hunting is available here as well. There are also wolves and mountain lions. Outdoorsmen and women who also love fishing will find excellent opportunities in the island's many rivers, lakes and coastal regions, known for trout, salmon and steelhead opportunities.
Hunting on Vancouver is challenging, due to dense forests throughout the island. This is rugged, mountainous country, with peaks reaching more than 7,000 feet and steep valley gorges rising beside the ocean. Logging is widespread, which means there is a vast network of logging roads providing access. Only active logging areas will have maintained roadways; unattended roads may be washed out or overgrown. Logging also means lots of clear-cut areas that produce deciduous plants, grasses and shrubs, creating the perfect habitat for deer, bear and elk, as well as upland game. Hunters will find ruffed and blue grouse, ptarmigan, California quail, pheasant, band-tailed pigeons and turkey. Game also use old logging roads to traverse the area.
Roosevelt elk hunts are restricted through a tag lottery system for residents and quota allocations for nonresidents hunting with an outfitter. Black bears are abundant and there is a good population of mule deer (black-tailed deer) that are usually hunted in the coastal areas, river estuaries and coastal plains. Waterfowl are common and can be found on the coastal plains of the east coast where both resident and migrating birds make use of large marshlands and estuaries. Much of these areas are private land, but permission can be obtained. Species include coots, ducks, snow geese, Ross’ geese, white-fronted geese and Canada geese.
- Region 2 Lower Mainland
The Lower Mainland runs from the Coast Mountains on the northwest to the Cascade Mountains in the southeast and is dominated by the Fraser River, which traverses the entire region from east to west. Altogether, it covers about 14,017 square miles (36,313 square kilometers). The Lower Mainland is home to BC’s largest population center of Greater Vancouver and is also home to intensive agricultural operations in the rich bottomlands of the Fraser Valley, benefiting from one of the mildest climates in Canada.
The mountains feature great forests of Douglas fir and mixed stands of fir with western hemlock and dogwood. In the Coast Mountains, short winters, low predator numbers and controlled hunting pressure have resulted in a high population density of mountain goats and high trophy quality. Hunting in the Coast Mountains provides spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. Other important wildlife habitat is found in the coastal salt marshes, the Fraser delta and Boundary Bay.
Big game species here include black bear, mule deer (black-tailed deer), mountain goat, wolf, coyote, bobcat and cougar. Upland birds available are blue grouse, ruffed grouse, spruce grouse, ptarmigan, pheasant and band-tailed pigeons. Waterfowlers will find coots, common snipe, ducks, Brant geese, snow geese, Ross’ geese, white-fronted geese and Canada geese.
- Region 3 Thompson
Located in the south-central interior of British Columbia, Thompson-Nicola area encompasses 27,619 square miles (44,450 square kilometers) and is dominated by the Thompson River with its headwaters near Wells Gray Park in the north. It includes the Nicola River Valley to the south and is divided into two sections, the North Thompson and Nicola.
The area transitions from desert badlands and rolling fields in the south to snowcapped mountains on the north end. It is defined by watershed boundaries and numerous glacier lakes. Nicola is cattle ranching country, with rolling hills and canyons, grasslands, vast plateaus, glacier lakes and timberlands. This is home to Merritt and Douglas Lake Ranch, the largest working cattle ranch in Canada. Badlands flank the South Thompson River northwards through rugged, rough country giving way to sub-alpine forests and tundra, and the world’s only temperate inland rainforest. At the southern edge of the North Thompson Valley, mountain slopes and heavy snowfall make this home to the second largest ski resort and recreation destination in Canada. Roughly halfway between Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies, the town of Clearwater is the gateway to an expansive backcountry of glacier-capped mountains, Alpine forests and crashing waterfalls.
Mule deer are perhaps the most popular game species in this region, but whitetails are also available. Other big game include moose, bighorn sheep, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars, bobcats and lynx. Upland game includes ruffed, blue, spruce and sharptailed grouse, common snipe, ptarmigan, chukar and Hungarian (gray) partridge, pheasant, mourning and Eurasian collared doves, and band-tailed pigeons. Waterfowling in the region is for coots, ducks, snow geese, Ross’ geese, white-fronted geese and Canada geese.
- Region 4 Kootenay
The Kootenay Region takes its name from the Kootenay River. The area lies in the southeast corner of British Columbia, covering about 47,224 square miles (76,000 square kilometers) and stretching from Arrow Lakes country in the west to Alberta in the east, the border of the United States in the south and on to Kinbasket Lake in the north. This region is dominated by water and mountains. Four mountain ranges run parallel in a northwest direction. On the west, the Monashees and the Selkirks flank the Arrow reservoir system and Slocan Lake, making up the West Kootenays. On the east run the Purcells and then the Canadian Rockies, creating the area called the East Kootenays. Within these ranges are seven national and provincial parks that are UNESCO designated as Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Sites. Kootenay Lake is also a major geographical feature, stretching more than 65 miles (105 kilometers).
The Kootenays are home to some excellent hunting for mule deer (black-tail), white-tailed deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, black bears, wolves, coyotes, lynx, bobcats, and cougars. Bird shooters can enjoy ruffed, blue and spruce grouse, pheasant, ptarmigan, turkey, mourning dove, common snipe and Eurasian collared dove. Waterfowl hunting is available for coots, ducks, snow geese, Ross’s geese, white-fronted geese and Canada geese.
- Region 5 Cariboo-Chilcotin
The Cariboo-Chilcotin region encompasses 70,000 square miles (12,654 square kilometers) of British Columbia’s central coast and interior, stretching over 375 miles (600 kilometers) from near the Alberta border all the way west to the coastline on the Pacific Ocean. Sandwiched between the southern region and the North, the Cariboo-Chilcotin region consists of three areas: the Cariboo, the Chilcotin and the Coast.
The Cariboo is an interior plateau east of the Fraser River, stretching from the Frasier Canyon to the Cariboo Mountains. The Chilcotin lies west of the Fraser, featuring plateau and mountains, as well as several fjord-like lakes. The Central Coast encompasses some 15,534 square miles (25,000 square kilometers) of coastal area, including Bella Bella, Bella Coola, Denny Island, Ocean Falls and Oweekeno.
The Cariboo-Chilcotin region has a diverse typography and varied scenery. Reminiscent of the fjords of Norway, the coastline is riddled with inlets and channels, and the Coast Mountains are a string of rugged snowcapped crags. The foothills of the Coast Mountains tumble eastward onto the Chilcotin Plateau with its dry expansive grasslands, pine and cedar-hemlock forests, wild meadows and spruce swamps. The Chilcotin is dominated by ranchlands, rivers and lakes, and is known for its western lifestyle and rugged individualism. In the south, surrounding Lillooet, the scenery is desert flats around the Fraser River canyon, transitioning to semi-arid sagebrush and prickly pear cactus as you head north. In central Chilcotin, rolling forests and ranchlands are latticed with river valleys.
The Cariboo was Gold Rush country. It starts in the south at Clinton and stretches north to Quesnel and then on to Prince George. It includes part of the Central Plateau and the Cariboo and Monashee Mountains, so the typography varies significantly. It ranges from dry grasslands and low to medium elevation forests of white spruce, lodgepole pine and Douglas-fir to roaring river canyons and majestic mountains covered in spruce and sub-alpine fir forests climbing to alpine habitats at higher elevations.
The Cariboo-Chilcotin region is home to mule deer (black-tail), white-tailed deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, black bear, wolf, coyote, lynx, cougar and bobcat. Upland birds available for hunting are blue, ruffed, spruce and sharptailed grouse, ptarmigan, chukar partridge, and common snipe. Waterfowlers will find coots, ducks, snow geese, Ross’s geese, white-fronted geese and Canada geese.
- 6 Skeena (North West)
The Skeena Region covers almost a third of British Columbia at about 203,359 square miles (327,275 square kilometers). Located in the northwest section of the province, Skeena stretches from Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands) on the coast to the Yukon, including the inland area east of the Alaska Panhandle. On the interior side, it runs from just south of Eutsuk Lake and northward to include Smithers, the Skeena and Liard drainage basins, Skeena Mountains, Stikine Plateau, Dease Lake, Cassiar, St. Elias, and through the middle of Teslin Lake where it is divided by the Yukon provincial border. The coast features deep fjords and mountain hemlock forests that give way to alpine habitats and glaciers at the highest elevations. The interior is riddled with spectacular canyons, steep mountains, swift rivers, and old-growth forests. On the southern region of Skeena, forests are of white and black spruce and lodgepole pine with Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir at the higher elevations. In the northern part of the region, spruce, willow and birch forests spread upwards to alpine areas.
Sheep hunters will find Dall sheep in the northwestern section of this region. Stone sheep, along with Fannin sheep, range further east and south. Also, in the northwest, hunters will find excellent moose hunting. Caribou range the entire northern half of Skeena, while black bears are found throughout the region and mountain goats inhabit the highest mountains. Other game available include mule deer (black-tail) white-tailed deer, elk, wolf, cougar, coyote, wolverine and lynx. Upland birds available are blue, ruffed and spruce grouse, ptarmigan and common snipe. Waterfowl hunting is also open for coots, ducks, snow geese, Ross’s geese, white-fronted geese, and Canada geese.
- Region 7A Omineca (North Central)
Omineca is located in the north-central interior of British Columbia, extending from the Interior Plateau to the central Canadian Rocky Mountains on the eastern edge of the province. It encompasses about 6,835 square miles (11,000 square kilometers). The region includes the Fraser River in the southeast and extends northwest of Prince George and north of Highway 16, also known as the Yellowhead Highway. Much of Omineca is defined by the Omenica River basin. It includes the Omineca Mountain Range on the northern edge of the region and the Rocky Mountain Trench on the east, filled by Lake Williston. The central Canadian Rocky Mountains tower along the eastern side of the Trench. But the plateau, here called the Fraser Plateau, encompasses a large chunk of the region as well. Its flat typography is pocked by many lakes, marshes and streams, creating excellent moose and waterfowl habitat.
In the mountains, hunters can pursue stone sheep, mountain goats and mountain caribou. Bighorn sheep are available in some areas in the Rockies. The mountains are also home to black bears and some elk. Also popular is the mule deer hunting. Other species include white-tailed deer, wolf, cougar, coyote, wolverine and lynx. Upland hunters can also find blue, spruce and ruffed grouse, ptarmigan and common snipe. Waterfowl include coots, ducks, snow geese, Ross’s Geese, white-fronted geese, Canada geese.
- Region 7B Peace
The 7B Peace Region of British Columbia makes up the very northeast section of BC. Its western side is composed of the Rocky Mountain foothills, and to the east are the plains of Alberta. It stretches from just south of Dawson Creek all the way north to the borders of the Yukon and Northwest Territories. This is a vast wilderness of rugged backcountry covering 12,943 square miles (204,215 square kilometers). In fact, the largest roadless wilderness south of the 60th parallel is here, without a single paved road crossing the Northern Rocky Mountains from north of Pine Pass between Mackenzie and Chetwynd all the way up to the Yukon border.
The area north of the Peace River is riddled with thousands of miles of rivers and heavily sprinkled by hundreds of lakes and towering peaks. It is dominated by the Rocky Mountains and their foothills. The southern part is divided into sections featuring boreal plains, rolling uplands with ridges and wide valleys, wide lowland plains sliced by rivers, and an area of foothills. The southern Peace region is home to many wetlands, ponds and lazy streams that make it a major migratory corridor for waterfowl and shorebirds. It’s also perfect for moose, although mule deer, white-tailed deer, caribou and elk are common too.
The Peace Region is home to one of North America’s largest remaining intact wildlife ecosystems, and its rich and diverse range of species has earned this section of the Northern Rockies the name “Serengeti of North America.” Sportsmen will find Stone’s sheep north of the Peace River, as well as lynx, elk, moose, caribou, black bears and mountain goats in the mountains, plus wolf and deer. Rocky Mountain bighorn can be hunted in the mountains along the border with Alberta. There is also some opportunity for mountain goat, cougar, coyote and wolverine. Upland hunters can find blue, spruce, ruffed and sharptailed grouse and ptarmigan. Waterfowlers can hunt coots, common snipe, ducks, snow geese, Ross’s Geese, white-fronted geese and Canada geese. Anglers can enjoy fishing for lake char, northern pike, walleye, arctic grayling, bull trout, rainbow trout and mountain whitefish.
- Region 8 Okanagan
Sandwiched between Vancouver’s Lower Mainland and Alberta, the Okanagan region is defined by the Okanagan Lake basin and river. Altogether, it contains about 12,943 square miles (20,831 square kilometers). The Okanagan Valley is part of British Columbia’s Interior Plateau and is characterized by a string of lakes created by glaciation. The 111-mile long (180 kilometers) Okanagan Valley is hedged by three mountain ranges. The Columbia Mountains (a range of the Rockies comprised of the Purcell, Selkirk, Monashee and Cariboo sub-ranges) lay on the east side of the Okanagan Valley. Here also is the Okanagan Highlands, a hilly plateau with mountains up to 8,000 feet and deep narrow valleys and the source of several rivers. To the southwest of the valley, are a section of the Cascade Mountains made up of the Okanagan, Hozameen and Skagit ranges. And the Coastal Mountains border the valley’s western edge. The valley itself features low hills and numerous lakes, the largest of which are Okanagan, Swan, Kalamalka and Wood lakes. It is a north-south running trench in the Interior Plateau, separating the drainage basins of the Columbia and Fraser Rivers. Two smaller valleys parallel it. One starts southwest of Peachland and runs south into the Osoyoos area. A more sharply defined valley starts in Kelowna and runs north to Vernon. This valley holds the Wood and Kalamalka Lakes.
Most of this region lies in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains, making the Okanagan’s southwestern climate mild and dry. North of Kelowna the area sees more precipitation and cooler temperatures, but in general visitors can expect a warm, sunny climate with hot summers and mild winters. The southern end of the valley around Osoyoos is semi-arid shrub-steppe, featuring cactus and sagebrush. Things become greener heading north with cedar and hemlock, fir parklands and sub-alpine systems at the very north end.
The Okanagan is known for its great mule deer and white-tailed deer hunting, but it is also home to elk, moose, mountain lions, lynx, bobcat, wolves, coyotes and black bears. California bighorn sheep are available in certain areas, such as the Ashnola Range. Mountain hunts in this region are not as prone to complications from foul weather. The mountains are not as high or rugged as in other regions, and there are lots of logging roads to access sub-alpine areas, open timberlands and grassy hillsides.
Bird hunters will find blue, spruce and ruffed grouse, chukar and Hungarian (gray) partridge, pheasant, quail, mourning doves, Eurasian collared doves and common snipe. For waterfowlers there are ducks, snow geese, Ross’s geese, white-fronted geese and Canadian geese.