When is the best time to visit Canada for Grizzly Bears? This expert guide looks at the different seasons for grizzly bear viewing and how to maximise your grizzly bear safari experience. A grizzly bear safari in Canada is one of the premier wildlife experiences, but like all wildlife safaris it is important to understand the different seasons in order to plan you Canadian wildlife tour in such a way to maximise your grizzly bear viewing.
The first bears will emerge from their winter dens in early April and although it is possible to see them during this month it is by far the most difficult time of year to see them, as they prefer to stay in the forests eating berries and other early fruits. By May the grizzly bears will move out of the woods to the rivers and estuaries, where sedge grasses will become a major component of their diet. Some of the best Canadian wilderness lodges have wildlife viewing programs designed to maximise what is called the 'Spring bear viewing season' and during a good year the months of May and June in British Colombia can result in seeing multiple bears and females with cubs.
If we roughly take the summer as being the months of July and August - the peak season for human visitors to Canada - you can say that while grizzly bears are still seen during the day, the number of encounters dropped off compared to the spring and autumn bear viewing. This may be due to the heat and many of the bears returning to the cooler forests, or a lack of significant food resources. That said, grizzly bears are real opportunists and you will still see them around the rivers and estuaries, searching for crustaceans, or feeding on roots and grasses.
With a huge coast line bordering the vast Pacific Ocean, western BC has some of the largest salmon runs in the world and the importance of this annual migration cannot be underestimated for Canada's apex predators such as Grizzly Bears and Orcas. When we started organising tours in Canada back in 2003 the salmon runs (there are 4 different species of salmon which return at different times!) started strongly in late August and continued through to early October. However in recent years we have noticed a shift to the best salmon runs occuring in September and often extending well into October. So when you are planning your grizzly bear safari, the month of September is a very attractive proposition; fewer human visitors, still decent weather and a chance to enjoy some spectacular grizzly bear viewing.
For the spring season we would recommend a visit to the Great Bear Lodge (accessed from Port Hardy) as this is one of our best Canadian wilderness lodges, as there is a strong focus on long hours out in the field grizzly bear viewing; led by expert guides and scientists.
For the summer season it is important to have realisitc expectations and undertake more than just one day focused on grizzly bear viewing in locations like Knight Inlet and the Great Bear Rainforest. We would recommend one of our clients favourite Canada wildlife tours which combines Tofino and Telegraph Cove.
For the peak grizzly bear viewing during the salmon run there are obviously multiple options, as this is the time when your grizzly bear safari can really be spectacular. However our favourite Canadian wilderness lodge that provides you with a spectacular arrival by floatplane, followed by visits to the world famous Knight Inlet viewing stands and amazing Orca whale watching in Johnstone strait is a grizzly bear safari at Grizzly Bear Lodge.