Directly or indirectly, all BC wildlife relies on our rivers and the ecosystems they foster. There are fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and countless insects that depend on clean, healthy, waterways and riparian zones (transitional areas between a river or stream and land) in and around Metro Vancouver.
Fish species are numerous in our rivers, including game fish such as salmon, trout and the iconic white sturgeon (Photo 1), as well as coarse fish, including sculpins and bullheads. A rich biodiversity is an indicator of a healthy river system.
Amphibians you could expect to find in slower-moving streams include the western toad (Photo 2), northwestern salamander, long-toed salamander, and, less frequently, the Pacific tree frog and red-legged frog.
There are not many reptiles in our local rivers and streams, but you might come across the red-eared slider (Photo 3) — an introduced turtle species that prefers the waters of a shallow stream or sluggish river. The only species of lizard you may spot in riparian zones of this region is the northern alligator lizard, a cryptic lizard that can grow up to 20 cm long from snout to tail. It is so named after its short legs, long body, and triangular shaped head cause it to resemble a very small alligator. As far as snakes go, garter snakes (Photo 4) are all you will likely encounter near any stream side or river habitat.
River otters and muskrats are two of the most commonly occurring mammals in our local streams and rivers. Beavers rely on our region’s slow-moving waterways,and often alter them to create suitable habitats (often to the chagrin of local landowners and clubs trying to revitalize struggling river ecosystems).
Various species of bats use waterways to hunt for insects from dusk till dawn. The mink (Photo 5) is one of the most commonly-sighted critters in our streams and rivers; however, they are not native and took up residence after being released into the wild. Harbour seals prefer a marine (salt water) setting, but are common friend you often see swimming in the Fraser while walking along the boardwalk at the Quay.
Birds are the most common and accessible animal group to be found along our regions streams and rivers. Gulls, cormorants, and bald eagles are widespread and can be found feeding in and around rivers. For birdwatchers, some great species, including green heron, barn swallow, Caspian tern, common nighthawk (Photo 6), and sandhill crane (Photo 7) can be found in and around our rivers and streams. Various waterfowl species, such as the Hooded Merganser (Photo 8) as well as the Mallard (Photo 9) are common on slow moving streams and tributaries.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the wildlife you may come across along our local streams and rivers, but it does help illustrateMetro Vancouver’s biodiversity. We are fortunate to have such diverse wildlife in our backyards, but we cannot take it for granted. There are many simple things we can do to ensure it stays like this for future generations: walking, cycling, or taking transit instead of the car one or two times more per week, taking a shorter shower, turning lights off when not in use, or supporting companies and products that have a strong environmental track record. We all have a part to play, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be a difficult role.