FLORA AND FAUNA OF THE SOUTHERN CHILCOTIN MOUNTAINS

Being diverse in its terrain and ecosystems, the Southern Chilcotin Mountains harbors a wide variety of flora and fauna. Such bio-diversity is what attracts many to these mountains and is a pleasure to experience.

FLORA

Coniferous forests prevail here, blending from mixed fir and pine in the lower elevations to spruce and fir in the upper elevations of the South Chilcotins. Unique low to mid-elevation aspen meadows support the multitude of wildflowers for which the Southern Chilcotin Mountains is renowned. Near treeline (at about 2000m elevation) and above, vast alpine meadows can also be found. Significant wetland areas provide aquatic ecosystems, usually at mid elevations. In general, the flora and fauna here are a mix of that found in BC’s coastal and interior regions.

High alpine meadows of ‘Little Graveyard Creek’ valley with Dil-Dil Plateau and ‘Ram Mtn’ in background

High alpine meadows of ‘Little Graveyard Creek’ valley with Dil-Dil Plateau and ‘Ram Mtn’ in background

Aspen set amongst pine grass along the Tyaughton Creek Trail

Aspen set amongst pine grass along the Tyaughton Creek Trail

The aspen meadows along the Relay Creek Road in autumn are spectacular

The aspen meadows along the Relay Creek Road in autumn are spectacular

Arrow-leaved balsamroot in full bloom along Gun Creek Trail

Arrow-leaved balsamroot in full bloom along Gun Creek Trail

Trees & Shrubs

Impressive old growth trees are also featured in the South Chilcotins. Trail Ventures BC has found birch, Douglas-fir, whitebark pine, and spruce giants throughout the area. Finding them, sometimes, is as easy as following the trail – you can’t miss them!

Old growth Douglas-firs adorn the North Cinnabar Creek Trail

Old growth Douglas-firs adorn the North Cinnabar Creek Trail

Juniper is common to lower elevations of the South Chilcotins

Juniper is common to lower elevations of the South Chilcotins

Old growth Whitebark pine are common to higher elevation forest of the South Chilcotins

Old growth Whitebark pine are common to higher elevation forest of the South Chilcotins

Plump and juicy blueberries along the lower sections of North Cinnabar Creek, High, Lick and B+F Trails are an important source of food for bears in July/August

Plump and juicy blueberries along the lower sections of North Cinnabar Creek, High, Lick and B+F Trails are an important source of food for bears in July/August

Wildflowers

Wildflowers are the jewel in the South Chilcotin Mountain’s crown. Here, the wide variety of flowers is as impressive as their abundance. Vast meadows of ever changing combinations can be found from low elevation to alpine areas. Many of the trails pass through such florid areas.

Wildflowers along the Upper Grasslands Trail (Spruce Lake area)

Wildflowers along the Upper Grasslands Trail (Spruce Lake area)

Alpine meadow in the North Cinnabar Creek basin in August

Alpine meadow in the North Cinnabar Creek basin in August

Pink monkey-flower along the Taylor-Pearson Trail

Pink monkey-flower along the Taylor-Pearson Trail

White mountain-avens at Lorna Pass

White mountain-avens at Lorna Pass

Fringed grass-of-Parnassus in the Paradise Creek valley

Fringed grass-of-Parnassus in the Paradise Creek valley

Upland larkspur along the Tyaughton Creek Trail

Upland larkspur along the Tyaughton Creek Trail

Yellow salsify along the lower Relay Creek Trail

Yellow salsify along the lower Relay Creek Trail

Tiger lily in meadows along the lower Gun Creek Trail

Tiger lily in meadows along the lower Gun Creek Trail

For more pictures of wildflowers click here.

Mushrooms

A wide variety of mushrooms subsists amongst the valleys of the Southern Chilcotin Mountains.

Oversized puffballs can be found sometimes at high elevation in the South Chilcotin Mountains

Oversized puffballs can be found sometimes at high elevation in the South Chilcotin Mountains

Bluish Tooth along the Paradise Creek Trail

Bluish Tooth along the Paradise Creek Trail

Red-capped Scaber Stalk in volcanic ash near Plateau Ponds

Red-capped Scaber Stalk in volcanic ash near Plateau Ponds

Black Morel along Tyaughton Creek Trail

Black Morel along Tyaughton Creek Trail

As a testament to its biodiversity and biotic importance, Nature Vancouver [Vancouver Natural History Society (VNHS)] has held various summer camps in the South Chilcotin Mountains studying its plants, fungi and animals. Click here to view reports on Nature Vancouver summercamps in the South Chilcotins on the Nature Vancouver website.

Click here to see a list of selected trees, shrubs, wildflowers and mushrooms identified by Trail Ventures BC in the Southern Chilcotin Mountains.

FAUNA

INSECTS

Many different kinds of beautiful butterflies and moths grace the South Chilcotins. The delightful mix varies from spring to fall. Trail Ventures BC has identified at least 10 different species of butterflies and we have noted that many more species of moths flutter about in co-existence. Several types of beetles, wasps, ants, bees, flies, grasshoppers, millipedes, centipedes, dragonflies also inhabit these mountains and valleys. The buzzing of cicadas is commonly heard amongst the tree branches in Gun Creek and Tyaughton Creek valleys in summer. We once found an impressive cave cricket under our backpack one morning in upper Manson Creek – these creatures love a dark and moist hangout. Within the wetlands thrive a variety of aquatic insects and larvae – Slim Creek, Grant Creek, Tosh Creek, Big Creek and Lone Valley Creek valleys are excellent places to check them out.

Cicada of Okanagana genus (species?) Gun Creek Trail (mid valley)

Cicada of Okanagana genus (species?) Gun Creek Trail (mid valley)

A dark and dampness seeking Cave Cricket in upper Manson Creek

A dark and dampness seeking Cave Cricket in upper Manson Creek

This weevil (name?) was found in the lower Gun Creek valley

This weevil (name?) was found in the lower Gun Creek valley

Millipede

Millipede

Phoebus butterfly in the high alpine meadows

Phoebus butterfly in the high alpine meadows

Fritillary butterfly (species?) in Lone Valley meadows

Fritillary butterfly (species?) in Lone Valley meadows

Painted Lady butterflies do not migrate S in the fall and usually die by winter

Painted Lady butterflies do not migrate S in the fall and usually die by winter

Mourning Cloaks are common to the Southern Chilcotin Mountains

Mourning Cloaks are common to the Southern Chilcotin Mountains

Common Alpine ssp. epipsode along Lower Tyaughton Hiker's Trail in June

Common Alpine ssp. epipsode along Lower Tyaughton Hiker’s Trail in June

Greenish Blue spp. amica along Lower Tyaughton Hiker's Trail in June

Greenish Blue spp. amica along Lower Tyaughton Hiker’s Trail in June

Satyr Anglewing (?) along Lower Tyaughton Hiker's Trail in June

Satyr Anglewing (?) along Lower Tyaughton Hiker’s Trail in June

Western Checkerspot feeding on Western Groundsel

Western Checkerspot feeding on Western Groundsel

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail along Lower Tyaughton Hiker's Trail in June

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail along Lower Tyaughton Hiker’s Trail in June

Butterfly (species ?) along Lower Tyaughton Hiker's Trail in June

Butterfly (species ?) along Lower Tyaughton Hiker’s Trail in June

Tachinid fly (species?) at 2500m elevation

Tachinid fly (species?) at 2500m elevation

Dwarf grasshopper in Gun Creek meadows

Dwarf grasshopper in Gun Creek meadows

Blood sucking insects include no-see-ums, mosquitoes, blackflies, deerflies, with horseflies rounding out the mix. Basically, this combination is not usual for BC’s backcountry – even Vancouver’s north shore can have an equal bug factor. A few ticks reside within the very lowest elevations in early summer.
Yellow jackets can be found here, usually nesting near or under ground. Some years are worse than others – 2005 was a particularly bad year. Watch out for these bees when walking the trails in late summer/fall. If your horse ride turns into a rodeo show you may have just rode over a nest! Hold on tight!

Bee/wasp (name?) on mountain top

Bee/wasp (name?) on mountain top

The Southern Chilcotin Mountains Guidebook provides insight to help you actually minimize the bug factor for this area through simple prevention and timing measures.

 

SPIDERS & MITES

 

Though not obvious, the South Chilcotins has its fair share of spiders – so look out! In wooded areas, you may walk through many webs along the trail but you will likely never see the culprits. In the grassy meadows your chances of a good viewing are better. However, arachniphobes need not worry!

Ground dwelling spider (name?) in alpine meadows

Ground dwelling spider (name?) in alpine meadows

Spider mite in the Spruce Lake area

Spider mite in the Spruce Lake area

 

GASTROPODS

 

Some slugs are found in the South Chilcotin Mountains. Evidence of more prolific fresh water snail occurence can be found in some ponds.

The remains of various subspecies of fresh water snails near Pearson Pond

The remains of various subspecies of fresh water snails near Pearson Pond

 

AMPHIBIANS

 

Frogs and toads are common in the Southern Chilcotin Mountains. Large, bumpy skinned Western Toads can be found wandering about in some damp alpine areas to 2250m elevation! They also tend to burrow and hibernate underground. A declining population has made BC the centre of the worlds distribution of Western Toads and indications show their numbers to be declining in SW BC. Red-legged Frogs and Columbia Spotted Frogs also inhabit this area. The population of Red-legged Frogs is declining and is of higher concern than the Western Toad.

A Columbia Spotted Frog with few spots in the wetlands along the Slim Creek Trail

A Columbia Spotted Frog with few spots in the wetlands along the Slim Creek Trail

A happy looking Western Toad in the high alpine of the Tosh Creek valley

A happy looking Western Toad in the high alpine of the Tosh Creek valley

 

BIRDS

 

Many species of birds make the South Chilcotin their home including eagles, owls, ravens, jays, Clark’s Nutcracker, woodpeckers, falcons, loons, ptarmigan and grouse. Interestingly enough, the symbiotic relationship between the noisy Clark’s Nutcracker and the whitebark pine is what allows this fine tree to exist. Without the help of these birds and squirrels, the tough and unopening cones of the whitebark pine would not release many seeds. Other bird species identified here include hummingbirds, chickadees, warblers, sparrows and finch. The VNHS identified 49 species of birds over a period of 2 weeks in 2001 in upper Pearson basin (sometimes referred to as Cinnabar basin).

Spruce Grouse are common to the forests of the South Chilcotin Mountains

Spruce Grouse are common to the forests of the South Chilcotin Mountains

Rock Ptarmigans can be found in the high alpine areas of the South Chilcotins

Rock Ptarmigans can be found in the high alpine areas of the South Chilcotins

Gray-Crowned Rosy-Finch in lowland forest

Gray-Crowned Rosy-Finch in lowland forest

Greater Yellowlegs skimming the ponds of upper Pearson basin

Greater Yellowlegs skimming the ponds of upper Pearson basin

 

MAMMALS

 

Mammal viewing within the South Chilcotin Mountains draws many visitors to this region. Some packhorse tours are offered especially for this purpose. So it suffices to say that substantial mammal life exists here. The bigger attractions include Grizzly Bear, Moose, Mountain Goat, Grey Wolf and Bighorn Sheep. Much more common are timid Mule Deer, whistling Hoary Marmots and cheeky Douglas’s Squirrels. Other mammals include Black Bear, Mountain Lion, lynx, bobcat, wolverine, porcupine, weasel, martin, and fox. Several species of shrews, voles and bats also inhabit the South Chilcotins.

The Southern Chilcotin Mountains provides prime grizzly habitat so encounters with grizzly are possible. Practice bear avoidance measures: be aware of your surroundings, frequently make your presence known, hang your food, keep a clean camp, and carry bear spray. For more info regarding bear avoidance and encounters, visit www.wspa.ca.

Help to protect grizzly bears and report any grizzly bear sighting here: www.coasttocascades.org

A herd of Mountain Goats foraging along the Eldorado-Gun divide

A herd of Mountain Goats foraging along the Eldorado-Gun divide

Grizzly bear track along the Castle Pass Trail

Grizzly bear track along the Castle Pass Trail

Moose in the Slim Creek drainage

Moose in the Slim Creek drainage

Hoary Marmot in upper Taylor basin

Hoary Marmot in upper Taylor basin

Mule Deer are common to the South Chilcotin Mountains

Mule Deer are common to the South Chilcotin Mountains

Porcupine climbing in the high alpine slopes within the Paradise Creek drainage

Porcupine climbing in the high alpine slopes within the Paradise Creek drainage

American Beaver active in winter along the Bridge River

American Beaver active in winter along the Bridge River

Often heard but lesser seen - the American Pika is well suited to talus slopes which are prevalent in the South Chilcotins

Often heard but lesser seen – the American Pika is well suited to talus slopes which are prevalent in the South Chilcotins

Beaver Lodge

Beaver lodge at outflow of Tyaughton Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To see a list of selected butterflies, amphibians, birds and mammals which Trail Ventures BC has identified in the Southern Chilcotin Mountains from 2002-2006, click here.

 

REFERENCES USED IN IDENTIFICATIONS

Flora
Brayshaw, T. Christopher
Trees and Shrubs of British Columbia. Royal British Columbia Museum Handbook. 1996
Farrar, John Laird
Trees of Canada. 1995
Little, Elbert
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. 1980
Parish, Coupe, Lloyd
Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia. 1996
Pojar, Mackinnon
Plants of Coastal British Columbia. 1994
Fauna/ Fungi
Acorn, John, and Sheldon, Ian
Bugs of British Columbia. 2001
Eder, Tamara and Pattie
Mammals of British Columbia. 2001
Lincoff, Gary
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms. 1981
McGavin, George C
The Pocket Guide to Insects of the Northern Hemisphere. 1998
Milne, Lorus and Milne, Margery
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders. 1980
Udvardy, Miklos D.F. Revised by John Farrand, Jr.
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds. 1994