Free Big Game CORE Hunter Education Quiz BC Firearms Academy
Despite its name a mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus) is actually not a member of the actual goat genus. Mountain goats belong to a group known as goat-antelopes. The natural range of the mountain goat includes southern Alaska and Yukon, British Columbia, northern Idaho, northwest Montana and parts of Washington. British Columbia contains more than half of the world’s population of mountain goats. Mountain goats have the thickest and longest pelage of any North American ungulate aside from the muskox. Their coats are white and usually fairly shaggy, including hollow guard hairs up to 20 cm long and a fleecy undercoat that is 5 to 8 cm long. Both sexes sport a noticeable beard, which is longer in winter. Mountain goats have a deep chest and well-developed shoulder muscles that give them great strength for climbing and pawing for food in the winter. A mountain goat’s cloven hooves have rough, textured traction pads that project past the rim of the hooves, which makes them conducive to rocky and slippery terrain.
Grizzly bears (Ursus artcos) are the second largest land carnivore in North America. They are widely distributed throughout British Columbia the Yukon and the mainland parts of the Northwest Territories. Inhabiting rugged terrain in upper slopes and valley bottoms, grizzly bears can be found in 80% of British Columbia. Grizzly bears can range in color from creamy yellow to almost black. Grizzly bears have broad heads and small, rounded ears. They have prominent shoulder humps that are formed as a result of heavy digging. Their toes are close together and in a relatively straight line, which makes their footprint distinguishable from that of a black bear. Though classified as carnivores, the variety in the grizzly bear’s diet makes them omnivores. Grizzly bears will forage at a variety of elevations, from valley bottoms to alpine meadows. Grizzlies will eat everything from worms to salmon and berries to ungulates. They also have excellent senses of smell and fairly good sight. A grizzly bear’s weight will vary from 290 to 1100 lbs (130 to 500kg), depending on its gender, season, region, age, and access to food.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK
Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) is a subspecies of elk found in the Rocky Mountains and adjacent ranges of Western North America. In the summer, Rocky Mountain elk are generally copper-brown and in the fall, winter, and spring, a lighter tan. The rump patch is often light beige and the legs and neck are often darker than the rest of the body. In the summer, Rocky Moutain elk feed on grasses and forbs, while in the spring and fall they primarily feed on grasses. In winter, they feed on grasses, shrubs, tree bark, and twigs. They often supplement their diet at mineral licks. Adult bulls generally weigh up to 700lbs and adult cows weigh up to 500lbs.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN BIGHORN SHEEP
Bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis canadensis)are more widely distributed throughout the United States than Canada and are noted for their ability to survive incredibly diverse conditions. There are two subspecies of bighorn sheep; the Rocky Mountain bighorn and the California bighorn. Both species have concave hooves with rough footpads that provide traction in rocky terrain. The two species of bighorn sheep look similar, with California bighorns being slightly darker in color than the Rocky Mountain bighorn. In late summer and autumn, bighorn sheep have a brown coat with a contrasting ivory-white rump patch, a white muzzle and white trim on the back of all four legs. By late winter, the coat fades to a gray-brown.
WHITE TAILED DEER
The white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virignianus) is the most widely distributed of North America’s large mammals. It can be found as far south as the southern tip of North America, and as far north as Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories. It also spreads as far east as Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia to as far west as British Columbia. White-tailed deer are tan or reddish-brown in the summer, and grayish-brown in the winter. When sensing danger, the deer raises its tail – this is called ‘flagging.’ Showing this large white patch on the underside of the tail signals an alarm to other deer and helps a fawn follow its mother to safety. White-tailed deer eat large amounts of food, commonly eating cultivated crops and foraging on other plants, including shoots, leaves, forbs, and grasses. Their diets vary by season and by the availability of food sources. On average, white-tailed deer weigh approximately 100lbs, depending on gender, season, region, age, and access to food, though in some extreme cases, mature bucks up to 200lbs have been recorded.
NORTH AMERICAN BISON
Bison (Bison bison), also known as buffalo, are very large animals with a shaggy dark brown mane. Bison can weigh more than a ton and stand up to 2 meters tall, and inhabit the northeastern regions of British Columbia and the southern regions of the Yukon and Northwest Territories. There are two subspecies of bison; the wood bison and the plains bison. Wood bison are slightly larger and darker than plains bison. Their heads and forequarters are covered with shaggy chocolate-brown hair that is shorter and lighter behind the shoulders. Wood bison have long tails that have a small tuft of hair at the tip. Bison appear to carry their heads quite low because of their beards and shoulder humps. Both the male and female bison have short, round, black horns that curve upwards. A bison’s diet consists almost entirely of grass, but will also include shrubs, lichens and twigs. Bison herds are extremely aware of their environments and can distinguish smells from several kilometers away.
In North America, the Canada moose (Alces alces andersoni) subspecies is exceeded in size only by the Alaska Yukon subspecies. Males are distinguished by carrying the largest antlers of any mammal, which can weigh as much as 35kg in North American moose. Antlers are grown in the spring and shed in the winter each year. Pelage is generally dark, black to brown, with the lower legs being lighter. Their underfur and long guard hairs provide excellent insulation from the cold. The males range from 360 to 600 kg with lengths from 2.4 to 3.1 m. Females range from 270 to 400 kg with lengths of 2.3 to 3.0 m. Moose browse birch, aspen, and willow twigs and leaves; and in winter the needles of balsam fir. They seek new regeneration in logged or burned habitats. Moose frequent lakes to eat aquatic vegetation, at times submerging completely.
Cougars (Felis concolor), also known as mountain lions are only found in the Western Hemisphere. Depending on food availability, the cougar generally resides in remote, wooded and rocky places, though it may also venture into the subalpine. Cougars have short fur that ranges in color from reddish-brown to grayish-brown. The tip of the tail, the sides of the muzzle and the backs of the ears are all black. The cougar’s body is long and lithe, and its tail is more than half the length of the head and body. Some cougars will have prominent facial patterns of black, brown or cinnamon. The cougar mainly preys on deer, but may also prey on bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elk, moose, beaver, porcupine, mice, rabbits and birds. A cougar’s weight will vary from 70 to 200 lbs (32 to 90 kg).
Clinging to sheer rock faces or sedately grazing at the tree line, thinhorn sheep are a true mammal of the mountains. There are two subspecies of thinhorn sheep, Dall’s sheep (Ovis dalli) and Stone’s sheep (Ovis dalli stonei), both of which are native to North America. Both subspecies live in the subarctic areas of Canada’s northwest, residing in close vicinity to rougher terrains for protection from predators. Dall’s sheep live in parts of the Yukon, Northwest Territories and the extreme northwestern corner of British Columbia. Stone’s sheep occur throughout northern British Columbia and the Yukon. Where the two ranges meet in southern Yukon and parts of British Columbia, interbreeding has resulted in the fannin sheep, which are classified as Stone’s sheep. Dall’s sheep are pure white while Stone’s sheep are a darker slate color. Both subspecies have thick, curved horns that are yellowish in color. A ram’s horns may grow up to 122 cm from base to tip, while ewes never grow longer than 25 cm. The ram’s horns are roughly triangular in cross section and grow throughout life. The horns grow rapidly in the summer and slowly in the winter; this difference in this seasonal growth rate produces a ring, known as “annuli” that reveals the animal’s age.
Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) reside in some of the most severe environmental conditions in the world. In Canada there are three subspecies of caribou: peary caribou, woodland caribou and barren ground caribou. Peary caribou are only found on the islands of Canada’s far north, while barren ground caribou occupy the far northern boreal forests and arctic tundra in Alaska, Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Woodland caribou reside in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and throughout the coastal mountains of British Columbia. In the summer, caribou have grayish-brown coats and white on the edges of the tail and hooves. A caribou’s winter coat is thicker and much lighter in color. Both male and female caribou have beautiful antlers that stretch over their shoulders. Caribou are grazers that migrate in search of food. Lichens are the central aspect of a caribou’s diet, but they also enjoy other greenery depending on the season and subspecies. Caribou often live in areas where the snow is too deep to dig through and eat the tree lichen of old forest growth.
The wolverine (Gulo gulo) has tiny eyes and short round ears that offset a small round face. Its thick head, neck and shoulders are insulated with muscles that are covered in a brown coat with two adjacent yellow stripes. Despite how beautiful their sleek fur looks, you shouldn’t get too close. Wolverines are fierce animals. They have strong, sharp teeth and semi-retractable claws that they use for digging, climbing and scaring away predators. They live in dens made out of snow tunnels, rocks and boulders and can be found in remote forests and tundra. They are constantly on the move, looking for their next meal. When more food is available, wolverines don’t have to walk as far. On average, the males have a home range of approximately 1,000 square kilometers, while females stay within 100 square kilometers. Although sometimes this species will eat berries and plants, they usually go after meat — everything as small as mice and rabbits to as big as moose and caribou. When they hunt, they climb trees or tall rocks and boulders from which they jump onto their prey’s backs. If the wolverine can’t finish all the food, it sprays it with musk, like a skunk, and buries it for later.
The gray wolf (Canis lupus), also known as the timber wolf, prefers the open tundra and forests of British Columbia. Although they once inhabited most of North America, distribution now occurs in only Alaska, Canada, and parts of the U.S.A. In general appearance, the species resembles a large domestic dog, but has longer legs, larger feet, a narrower chest, and a straight tail. The fur is thick, with an outer layer composed of coarse guard hairs, below which a soft undercoat is present. The coat undergoes an annual moult in late spring, with a short summer coat growing simultaneously, which continues to develop into a winter coat in the autumn and winter. The most common coat colour is gray flecked with black, with lighter underparts, but individuals and populations also occur that are red, brown, black, or almost pure white. The gray wolf’s sensitive ears and nose help it to track down prey, while the long legs enable it to make high-speed, lengthy pursuits.
The bobcat (Felis rufus) occupies open coniferous and deciduous forests, ranging in areas where the lynx is absent. Bobcats cannot tolerate too much snow and will not be found in the north. Bobcats generally have tawny coats that vary with the seasons. Their winter coat is usually a dull gray with faint patterns, while their summer coat often has a reddish tinge. A bobcat’s sides are spotted with dark brown and dark, horizontal stripes on the breast and the outside of the legs. Bobcats have two black bars across each cheek, a brown forehead stripe, and whitish chins and throats. Bobcats will hunt squirrels, rats, mice, voles, beavers and nesting birds, but they prefer rabbit. Despite their small size, the bobcat is a ferocious hunter that can take down animals much larger than itself, such as deer and antelope. A bobcat’s weight will vary from 9 to 40 lbs (4.1 to 18 kg).
The range of Canada lynx (Felis lynx) span across much of Canada and Alaska, primary inhabiting the boreal forest. Lynx are a medium-sized cat with long legs, huge paws and protruding ears tipped with black hairs. The long silvery-gray fur of the Canada lynx bears faint darker stripes on the sides and chest. There will also be darker spots on the belly and on the insides of the forelegs, and black stripes on the forehead. The entire tip of their stubby tails is black. A lynx’s diet is primarily made up of snowshoe hare, but it will also consume squirrels, grouse and other rodents. A lynx’s weight will vary from 15 to 40 lbs (6.8 to 18 kg).
Black-tailed deer are a smaller subspecies of mule deer. Their coat is slightly darker in color. They have a small rump patch and a tail that is mostly brown or black. Black-tailed deer occur along the entire coast of British Columbia, west of the summit of the Coast and Cascade Mountain ranges. Visible differences between the Columbia black-tailed (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) and Sitka black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis) are slight. Sitka black-tailed deer are slightly smaller and darker and are only found on the Queen Charlotte Islands, other islands in the Hecate Strait and along the coast of northern Vancouver Island. Columbia black-tailed deer are found on Vancouver Island and along the coastal territory from the International Boundary to Rivers Inlet.
Of the four subspecies of elk found in North America, two reside in British Columbia. Roosevelt elk (Cervus canadensis roosevelti) can be found on Vancouver Island. Roosevelt elk are larger with larger and more rugged antlers than other members of the species. Roosevelt elk have a golden brown coat during the summer and a longer, grayish brown coat during the winter. Their legs, head and neck remain dark brown year round. Mature bull Roosevelt elk have rich brown antlers with ivory tips and long cylindrical beams that sweep upward and back. Bull elk will shed their racks every March. A Roosevelt elk’s diet primarily consists of sedge, grass and ferns, but is supplemented by willows, elderberry, cedar and hemlock. In the winter, elk ranges are most commonly found in open forests, grassy bench lands or floodplain marshes. In May and June, Roosevelt elk migrate to subalpine and alpine basins that support lush vegetation. At maturity, a cow will weigh about 500 lbs and a bull will weigh about 700 lbs. Roosevelt elk meat is leaner and higher in protein than both chicken and beef.
Black bears (Ursus americanus) are the most widely distributed mammal in British Columbia’s forests. Experts estimate the BC black bear population to be between 120,000 and 160,000 Black bears have short, stout bodies, small black eyes, rounded ears, short tails and straight facial profiles. Their feet are flat-soled and have five toes, naked pads and sharp curved claws. Black bears can be distinguished from grizzlies by their facial profiles, shoulders, smaller size and shorter claws. They typically hibernate for three to seven months, depending on their geographical location and food supply. Despite their name, black bears can be blue-gray or blue-black, brown, cinnamon, or even (very rarely) white. Black bears have very diverse diets, consuming vegetable matter in the spring and summer and small mammals throughout the year. In the spring, black bears prey on young deer, elk, moose and caribou. In the summer, they feed on insects, fruits, berries, and salmon. The black bear is the smallest member of the bear family found in North America. Adult black bears vary in size from 120 to 660 lbs (55 to 300 kg).
Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) are distributed throughout western North America from the coastal islands of Alaska, down the West Coast to southern Baja Mexico and from the northern border of the Mexican state of Zacatecas, up through the Great Plains to the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and the southern Yukon Territory. Generally, mule deer are quite easy to identify, due to their large mule-like ears, for which they earn their name. They usually have a distinctive black forehead, or mask, that contrasts sharply with a light gray face. The lighter facial coloration makes the eye rings and muzzle markings seem less obvious. Mule deer are brownish-gray in color, have a white rump patch, and a small white tail with a black tip. Mule deer are primarily browsers, with a majority of their diet being comprised of weeds, leaves, berries, grass, and twigs of woody shrubs.
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