Facilitating the protection and restoration of endangered species and ecological communities on BC’s South Coast

Identifying Wildlife

Here you will find introductory resources for general species inquiries, as well as information to help identify the amphibians, reptiles, snails, birds, and mammals found on the South Coast.

In BC, species at risk are ranked by two agencies: provincially by the BC Conservation Data Centre (CDC), and nationally by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). This ranking reflects the degree of extinction risk of a species. For more information about species ranking and in-depth information about a specific species or ecosystem at risk, including various guidelines regarding their protection, go to our Species and Habitat page.

 

Who's Who on the South Coast?

Amphibians:

Have you seen a frog, toad or salamander? These species may be identified by their appearance, calls, or egg masses. The following links help to identify the various species in our region using these features.

Use this guide to identify the Frogs and Toads of BC's South Coast. NEW! Use this guide to identify Aquatic Amphibian Eggs of BC's South Coast.

The BC Ministry of Environment’s Frogwatch Program has an easy-to-use key to visually identify Salamanders and a brochure which includes pictures and descriptions about the ecology and different lifestages of the Frogs, Toads, and Salamanders of Vancouver Island.

Curious about what you heard? Listen to Frog Calls to identify various amphibians.

Many amphibian species breed in the spring and lay their eggs in places such as ponds, wetlands, and slow moving streams. Identify amphibian species by their egg masses with the Ministry of Environment’s Frogwatch Identification Key to Aquatic Amphibian Eggs of Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands.

You can also find some great learning activities and conservation tips on amphibians and reptiles by checking out the SCCP's Species at Risk In the Classroom Program!

Birds:

Bird watching is a popular activity on the South Coast. There are many resources available to aid in identifying the species found in our region.

This guide from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a good beginner’s resource. It helps identify birds based on name and shape and provides tips for beginners on birding.

Learn about the different Owls of BC with the Northwest Wildlife Preservation Society. Listen to owl calls by clicking the green link below each description.

Got Swallows? The British Columbia Swallow Conservation Project is a local initiative to undertake inventory, research, and conservation actions to steward and recover swallows and their habitat in British Columbia.

For information about bird distributions and movements, see the Bird Map by Bird Studies Canada. Use the interactive map to search by bird species to find information such as location, abundance, and range.

Installing nesting boxes is one way to attract birds and to provide habitat. For instructions on how to make a nest box and help endangered species such as Barn Owls, Western Screech-Owls, and Purple Martins, see the Burke Mountain Naturalists’ Guide on How to Build Nest Boxes for Common Birds in the Tri Cities Area.

For information about reducing housecat predation of wild birds see Cats and Birds.

Today’s technology has allowed for improved ways to identify birds. Here are some excellent Smartphone and Tablet Apps* for bird identification.

Free Apps:

"South Coast Endangered Species Finder." Species Identification on the go! To complement our centralized information portal the SCCP has launched our new Android mobile app  This app synchs with our online species profiles so that both platforms can be updated easily as new information becomes available. You can use the app to view images and general information about all the species profiled on our website. Use your phone’s camera to take pictures of species you encounter and make field notes using your phone’s GPS system. Create a diary of occurrences and favourites to use for future reference! This information will also be incredibly valuable for reporting your information through the BC Conservation Data Centre and programs like BC Frog Watch and the Community Bat Programs of BC.

Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab of Ornithology– this free app for Apple and Android devices helps identify birds by asking a few simple questions and can narrow down the list of possibilities by using your location. Also plays bird calls.

iBird – the “lite” version of this app is free and helps the user identify birds by asking a few simple questions, can narrow down the list of possibilities by using your location, and also plays bird calls. The full paid version contains more birds, and bird songs, and search attributes than the free version. It also allows you to add your own pictures and sync favourites, notes, and pictures with Dropbox. Works on Apple, Windows, Android, and Amazon Kindle devices.

Paid Apps:

Sibley Birds – this app helps identify birds by asking a few simple questions and can narrow down the list of possibilities by using your location. It also plays bird calls and is available for Apple, Windows, Android, Blackberry, and Amazon Kindle devices.

Bird Song ID Canada Automatic Recognition – This app identifies birds of Canada by their songs and calls and works with Apple devices.

Mammals:

Over 130 species of mammals are native to BC. There are the larger and easily visible species such as the American Black Bear, Cougar, and Black-tailed Deer. In addition, there are 83 species of smaller mammals, many of which are nocturnal and more reclusive, such as shrews, moles, and voles. Use these resources to learn more about the large and small mammals of BC.

For step-by-step keys that help identify small mammals, see the BC Ministry of Environment’s Identification Manual to the Small Mammals of BC.

Annette deHalt, professor at Camosun College, provides a brief overview of the mammals of BC in her lecture series including Part A: Marsupials, Insectivores, Bats, Rodents, Lagomorphs (small mammals of BC) and Part B: Carnivores, Pinnipeds, Cetaceans, Ungulates (larger mammals).

Bats: With 16 different species in BC, bats are the second biggest mammalian order after rodents. 10 different species of bats are found in the South Coast Region alone, but their populations are dropping due to a number of threats, including habitat loss. While it has not reached BC, in the US and Eastern Canada "White-Nose Syndrome" has killed off millions of bats and has resulted in a special emergency federal listing of three bat species in Canada. As well as conserving biodiversity, protecting bats is important to help control pest populations such as mosquitos. See below to learn more about the bats of BC and what you can do to help. https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/news/three-bat-species-listed-endanger...

For information on local bat species check out the South Coast Bat Action Team (SCBAT).

Know about an established bat colony? The Community Bat Programs of BC is encouraging landowners to register their bat colonies to help improve our understanding of bats to aid conservation efforts.

Bat houses, similar to bird houses, are wooden structures that provide homes to bats. Installing a bat house in your yard can be beneficial for both you and bats. It provides habitat and many bats feed on insects reducing the pests in your yard. See the Community Bat Program's Guide for Bat Houses in BC for instructions on building and installing your own bat house.

Beavers:

Beavers play an important role in the ecosystem. They create wetlands which provide habitat for a high number of species including amphibians, fish, waterfowl, insectivores, bats, and stream mammals. They filter excess nutrients and pollution, improving downstream water quality. Beaver dams also help to elevate summertime baseline flow levels in streams, improving fish habitat. However, conflicts can arise between beavers and people when dams cause flooding of private property, or beavers cut down trees for their lodges. The resources below offers suggestions for living with beavers while protecting your property.

The BC Ministry of Environment's Beaver Management Guidelines provides information about the various legislation that affects beavers and their dams as well as tips for discouraging problem beavers.

Cows and Fish, a Riparian Habitat Management Group working in Alberta has also created a Beaver Decision Matrix to help agricultural landowners make decisions regarding management of beavers on their property that benefit both wildlife habitat and agricultural business. 

A good resource from our Southern neighbours, Managing Wildlife (Beavers) from the Virginia Cooperative also has information about the biology and benefits of beavers as well as suggestions for controlling beaver damage. Refer to the BC guidelines for information about legal responsibilities.

Reptiles:

Have you seen a turtle, snake or lizard? On the South Coast, there are only a few native species of terrestrial reptiles including the Common and Wandering species of Garter Snake, Rubber Boa, Northern Alligator Lizard, and the Western Painted Turtle. Use the following links to identify the species of reptile you saw.

For information on reptiles see Thompson River University and the Ministry of Environment joint website on BC Reptiles.

The invasive Red-Eared Slider (originally pet store turtles that were released) is abundant in lakes of the Lower Mainland and, unfortunately, it is taking over the habitat of the endangered Western Painted Turtle. Learn how to identify both these turtles and report observations of Western Painted Turtle to help conservation efforts or check out the Coastal Painted Turtle Project Facebook page.

Snails:

Snails are easy to identify. On the South Coast we have a number of native snail species, as well as the introduced Grove Snail which is commonly seen in gardens. The Oregon Forestsnail and Pacific Sideband are our largest land snails, both of which are at-risk. We also have carnivorous Lancetooth snails and the “hairy” Northwest Hesperian snail on the South Coast. Help us protect and conserve our native snails by using the Fraser Valley Conservancy’s key to Identifying Snails you might find in the Fraser Valley. For a detailed online resource check out E-Fauna's Land Snail pages and image gallery. You can also purchase the publication "Land Snails of BC" a Royal BC Museum Handbook (with addendum & errata) By Robert G. Forsyth.

Still Looking for more information?

These search engines provide useful information on a specific species such as range, habitat type, diet, pictures and drawings to help identify it, and its conservation status in BC and Canada.

The Provincial Government has developed the BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer which allows the user to learn more about BC wildlife such as locations that a species has been found, conservation status, and any recovery plans for the species.

For information on a particular plant species, including conservation status, drawings, and photos to help identify it, go to the Electronic Atlas for the Flora of BC (Eflora) website.

For information on a particular animal species, including conservation status, drawings, and photos to help identify it, go to the Electronic Atlas for the Fauna of BC (Efauna) website.

To learn what species at risk may be found in your area, go to the Stewardship Centre for BC’s Species at Risk, a Primer for BC webpage where you can search by species, habitat type, municipality, forest district, or regional district.

*The products and resources listed above are for further information and do not reflect formal endorsement by the SCCP or its partners.

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