Black bear watching in Port Alberni

When Marije and I drove across Canada last year we saw several black bears in Jasper NP, they were just walking along the side of the road and we were able to watch them from the car.

Here on Vancouver Island we had never seen any bears, it was a combination of not knowing where to look and not being lucky enough to see them. But then came this weekend, and now we’ve seen six of them! 🙂

For us, Port Alberni was always just a town we drove through on the way to the West Coast, but when we were driving home from Ucluelet this pas Sunday I had a feeling I was supposed to watch the banks of the Somass River.

‘Bear!!’ I yelled. Marije immediately pulled into a parking lot and we bolted out of the car with binoculars in hand.


A black bear was fishing for salmon just across the river! The locals remained unfazed, seeing this all the time apparently. But soon enough more tourists noticed us staring at something and they joined us in our bear watching efforts.



We soon learned that it was the right time to see this kind of thing, because the salmon were currently making their way upriver and this attracted the attention of many bears. After a while we noticed more bears further down the river so we made our way to a place called Victoria Quay.

This was the place where everybody was watching bears, and there was even a Bear Watch Bistro just across the street. Marije and I ended up spending most of the evening on one of the many benches along this ‘Bear Watching Boardwalk’. With a bright sun directly above the river the light was far from ideal but we didn’t care, we were just happy to see them!


Low tide means the bears can come out of the bushes,


… to pick up dead salmon from the beach:



Monday morning I returned to Victoria Quay to see the bears in the sunlight.

This is the Somass River, and you can clearly see that you really have to bring binoculars or a big lens to see the bears properly:


I measured the distance across the river on a map and depending on the tide it’s anywhere from 110 to 130 metres. Pretty safe bear watching distance, but personally I wouldn’t mind being a little closer.


For about an hour I was entertained by seals, vultures and leaping salmon, after that a bear showed up:



This bear was hurt, favouring its front-left paw as it stumbled around the water’s edge:


As the tide was too high to easily get at the salmon, the bear retreated into the bushes after a while.

Here’s the information sign about the black bears in Port Alberni, you can click on it to read it:

Port Alberni is Bear Country

4 thoughts on “Black bear watching in Port Alberni

  1. I would have been happy at that distance from the bears. What great shots of them! Thanks for sharing your wonderful pictures.

    1. Thanks Marian, sometimes they walk down the spectator side of the boardwalk too, so I’ll keep my eyes open for a closer encounter 🙂

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