January 16, 2020

River Otters

Observations of River Otters in the Columbia Valley have been increasing. The one pictured here was seen swimming in open water of the Columbia River

Otters rely upon the presence of clean, unpolluted water for their food, primarily fish. The ones in the Columbia Valley feed mainly on Northern Pikeminnows (Squawfish) and in the fall eat spawning Kokanee Salmon. South of Toby Creek you can often see the shell remains from where otters have eaten freshwater mollusks.

Because otters are high in the food chain, they are particularly susceptible to the accumulation of organic compounds and heavy metals. This makes them good indicators of contaminant levels in the aquatic environments. So it is a good sign that River Otter numbers are increasing in the upper Columbia Valley.

Posted on January 16, 2020 05:58 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 2 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 13, 2020

Stories in the Snow

One of the fun things to do this time of year is to go into the wetlands looking for animal tracks in the snow. Pictured here are tracks of a coyote and weasel that cross paths but what is the strange design over their tracks? The design was made by an elk slipping on ice.

Posted on January 13, 2020 03:17 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 1 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 10, 2020

Wintering Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles feed mainly on fish, either self-caught or taken from Osperys. But when fish are scarce they prey on smaller mammals like hares, muskrats and beavers. They will also take waterfowl and can be seen forcing ducks and coots to dive again and again until the exhausted bird is easily captured. However in winter when the waters freeze the Bald Eagles that remain in the Columbia Valley rely largely on carrion.

Photo immature Bald Eagle feeding on a White-tailed Deer carcass. The deer was likely kill by a train as it was near the railway tracks..

Posted on January 10, 2020 15:43 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 1 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Northern Pygmy Owl

The Columbia Valley has the highest diversity of owls (13 species) of any bioregion in Canada

Northern Pygmy Owl - Canada's smallest owl. They are smaller than an American Robin - about 7 inches high. They may be small but they can carry prey weighing up to 3 times its own weight. This White-footed Deer Mouse was an easy lift to the poplar tree perch.

Posted on January 10, 2020 02:44 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 1 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Pumpkinseed Sunfish discovered in the Upper Columbia River

"The Pumpkinseed Sunfish is native to southeastern Canada where it prefers weedy lake shore waters. The origin of the Pumpkinseed Sunfish in British Columbia is unknown, but its distribution seems to follow that of the Smallmouth Bass; it seems likely that these two species were introduced to British Columbia together in the early 1900s."

Pumpkinseed Sunfish are currently established in small lakes in Victoria area, the lower Columbia, lower Kootenay, Kettle and Okanagan systems below Cascade and Okanagan falls and now with this record the Upper Columbia River.

The introduction of exotic fish species into natural waterways can lead to a reduction in native fish numbers. Exotic fish affect native fish through direct competition for food and space, predation, habitat alteration and the introduction of exotic diseases and parasites.

"The proportion of endemic fish species found in the Columbia Basin in British Columbia sets the Columbia Basin apart from other large drainage basins in North America. At present, the Columbia Basin contains 43 fish species, of which 27 are native (9 endemic), and 16 are introduced 'exotic' species. The Columbia Basin presently houses over half (43 of 84 species) of British Columbia's freshwater fish fauna, making it the parent drainage for freshwater fish diversity in British Columbia." Living Landscapes, Royal BC Museum

Posted on January 10, 2020 02:39 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 1 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

White Sturgeon Release into Kootenay River

See Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqtwor6fpuY

There is antidotel evidence that White Sturgeon once lived in the Columbia River, up stream from Golden, BC.

"The Kootenay River sturgeon population is endangered in both Canada and the U.S. due to a variety of human impacts, including the operation of Libby Dam that has altered the natural flow of the river. There has been virtually no natural reproduction in the wild since 1974. There are thought to be fewer than a 1,000 adults living on both sides of the border.”

“We know that this is a stop-gap measure but it is a very important component of the conservation effort while we, and many other partners, work toward implementing habitat restoration measures that should provide conditions for fish to successfully reproduce in the wild,” says KTOI’s Fish & Wildlife Program Director, Sue Ireland. “This aquaculture program is critical if we are to avoid this population becoming extinct.” 

“The 10-month old juveniles weigh about 70 grams and are typically between 15 and 25 centimetres in length. They can grow to the length of a canoe and live for over 100 years."

For more information about Columbia and Kootenay River white sturgeon, visit , www.uppercolumbiasturgeon.org and www.fwcp.ca.

Posted on January 10, 2020 02:30 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 1 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 01, 2020


Kokanee are land locked Sockeye salmon. They were first discovered spawning in Kootenay National Park in 1984 when a fisherman spotted one in the Simpson River and reported it to Brian Sheehan (now retired park warden).
The following year thousands were observed spawning in the Kootenay River and by 1997 an aerial survey estimated nearly 500,000 spawners in the upper Kootenay River and tributary streams that flow into the Koocanusa reservoir.

Kokanee were introduced into Koocanusa reservoir in the late 1970's and have developed into an international fishery as well as a primary food source for bull trout. Now we know the effects of the bottled Kokanee but there are still questions as to what effect these introduced Kokanee Salmon have on the park's native fish and other wildlife.

Posted on January 01, 2020 02:46 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 1 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 25, 2019

Pygmy Water-lily

On July 14 2004 a new location for Pygmy Waterlily, Nymphaea tetragona, was discovered in the Columbia wetlands near Brisco, BC.  The new record is the most southerly for British Columbia. This circumboreal lily is blue listed in BC and is rare over most of its range except in Alaska. The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia states that it is found in lakes, ponds and slow-moving streams in the lowland and montane zones.  E-Flora BC shows the previous known distribution of Nymphaea tetragona in British Columbia. The ones in central BC are just north of Prince George approximately 700 km north of this new observation.

Posted on December 25, 2019 00:59 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 1 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 24, 2019

Northern Pygmy Owl

As its name suggests, the Northern Pygmy Owl is Canada’s smallest owl, about the size of a pop can and weighs only 70 grams. But despite their small size, they are quite fierce, and will attack prey several times their own size. There are even cases where pygmy owls have killed domestic chickens. 

This tiny owl is active during the day. They prefer the edges of open coniferous forest or mixed woodlands and they regularly perch on tops of trees - so that is a good place to look for them. In a few months they will be “hooting” their high-pitched too-too-too territorial call and by April they will have sought out an old woodpecker cavities for nesting.

Posted on December 24, 2019 16:04 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 1 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 23, 2019


Osprey nesting in this region return from their wintering areas around mid-April when the valley lakes are free of ice. Some early arrival dates include April 3 at Columbia Lake and April 6 at Golden, BC. The first few weeks after arrival Osprey are involved in pre-nesting activities like courtship flights, nest building and refurbishing. Egg laying begins as early as the last week in April and as late as mid June, but most clutches are laid between May 15 and 22. Incubation is about 38 days and young begin to hatch in early June. Young remain in the nest between 44 to 59 days with most young fledging in August.

Posted on December 23, 2019 15:56 by larryhalverson larryhalverson | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment