It’s no secret that Vancouver has one wild backyard. Eagles are a relatively common sight in the city and, if you’re lucky, you might even see an orca swimming in the waters of English Bay.
But every so often a truly exceptional visitor from mother nature wanders into our urban jungle. Here’s a list of the top 5 wildlife sightings in downtown Vancouver in recent memory.
- Coyote devours Stanley Park’s squirrels: Open the Vancouver Sun today and on page A3 you’ll find a photo of a coyote with a squirrel in its mouth. This picture wasn’t taken in the remote backcountry – It was taken at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park. While coyotes are normally nocturnal, this one apparently enjoys the spotlight. Experts encourage anyone who spots the animal to yell and frighten it away.
- Snowy owl spotted on West End balcony: Earlier this week, someone snapped an iPad picture of a rare snowy owl perched on the edge of her balcony in Vancouver’s West End. The giant owls with downy white feathers live in the arctic tundra and occasionally winter in the Lower Mainland, but normally in more remote areas near Boundary Bay.
- Black bear hitches ride on garbage truck: Black bears are a common sight in the North Shore mountains, but last December this bear managed to find his way into the heart of the city. He popped out of the back of a garbage truck right outside of Queen Elizabeth Theatre. It’s speculated that he hitched a ride into the city in a similar truck. The bear was sedated and relocated back to the wilderness.
- Grey whale takes scenic tour of False Creek: Killer whales are sometimes seen in the waters around Vancouver. But in 2010 an enormous grey whale wandered into False Creek, surfaced and did a few laps. Grey whales, which can measure up to 15 metres and weigh more than 30 tonnes, migrate through the region on their way north to the Bering Sea but rarely make a pit stop in Vancouver.
- Mountain lion takes up residence in the Fairmont Empress: For this last sighting, I have to bend the rules a bit and head to Vancouver Island. On a spring day in 1992, the tranquility of the stately, century-old Empress Hotel on the Victoria waterfront was suddenly interrupted by a hungry cougar. The big cat had wandered into the city and sought refuge in the hotel’s underground parking garage. It was tranquilized and returned to the wild.