A temperate climate, spectacular scenery, variety of habitats and abundant wildlife make Pender Harbour ideal for experiencing and enjoying nature. On hillsides, a lush forest canopy of mostly evergreens shelters a vigorous undergrowth of ferns, Oregon grape and salal. Near lakes and streams, skunk cabbage, wild bleeding heart and lilies grace forest floors. Columbine, broom and wild berries thrive along roadsides. In harsher conditions near the sea, wildflowers flourish among moss, lichen and sedum on rocky, windswept meadows. Under the sea, a variety of plants and animals thrive in our warm waters. This, combined with the good underwater visibility, make Pender Harbour a popular diving destination.
Attractions & Ecological Reserves
- Iris Griffith Interpretive Centre - Features displays and workshops at Ruby Lake. Learn more>>
- Ambrose Lake Ecological Reserve - A small ecological reserve near Earl's Cove, managed by the Pender Harbour Wildlife Society (below). Access, restricted to n on-invasive research and education, requires a permit from BC Parks.
- Francis Point Ecological Reserve - Adjacent to Francis Point Marine Park, this 9.22 hectare ecological reserve provides undisturbed habitat for several rare-listed species of tree, moss and fern. Download .pdf document >> Management Plan for Francis Point Provincial Park and Ecological Reserve.
- Iris Griffith Wetlands - Affectionately known as “West Nile Pond,” this small ecosystem mostly surrounded by tall trees is home to a large number of water birds including great blue herons. Formerly an inaccessible swamp, the area was transformed by the Pender Harbour Growth & Development Partnership and Pender Harbour Wildlife Society, who removed debris, built a raised walkway and added benches, a fish-ladder and interpretive signage. Access beside the Madeira Park Post Office or on Lagoon Road behind the church.
- Ruby Lake Lagoon Nature Reserve - A 10-hectare nature reserve at Ruby Lake featuring a freshwater pond and forest, managed by the Ruby Lake Lagoon Society (below).
Join a Group
- Lagoonies Nature Club - 604-883-9201.
For 5-13-year-olds Wednesdays after school at the Iris Griffith Centre, educational, nature-exploration activities include games, pond dipping and trail walks.
- Pender Harbour Wildlife Society - 604-883-9853.
With a focus on habitat conservation, the Pender Harbour and District Wildlife Society assists in land stewardship and parks protection, supports nature initiatives and hosts guest speakers. Activities/projects include nature walks, bird counts, purple loose strife removal, recycling, purple martin reintroduction, Iris Griffith Wetlands project and Ambrose Lake Ecological Reserve. Membership is $20 or $25 for a family. Everyone is welcome to meetings at Pender Harbour Secondary School, Sept-May; bring your own mug for complimentary coffee.
- Ruby Lake Lagoon Society - 604-883-9893.
Formed in 2002, this group’s focus is the preservation and enhancement of the wildlife of Ruby Lake Lagoon Nature Reserve and operation of the Iris Griffith Interpretive Centre.
- Large Land Animals
Roosevelt Elk, deer and black bear are common, and frequently encountered. Present but rarely seen in Pender Harbour are Canada's biggest feline and canine, the cougar and the wolf.
- Roosevelt Elk - In size, second in Canada's land animals to only the moose.
- History - Transplanted from Vancouver in 1989 by the Wildlife Department. They have thrived, much to the distress of local nursery owners, the golf club and many residents who suffered property damage from the huge, voracious and fearless beasts.
- Caution - Watch out for elk on local roads, particularly Hwy 101.
- Black Bear - Opportunistic black bears are frequently a nuisance to people leaving garbage outside. They are also attracted to ripe fruit that has fallen from trees, berry bushes, poorly managed compost bins and inadequately cleaned barbecue grills.
- Caution - Black bears are generally frightened of humans or indifferent to our presence, but it’s best not to take a chance if you encounter one who may not have read the statistics.
- Offsite link >> Get Bear Smart | Parks Canada >> Bear Encounter Tips.
- Small Animals
Raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, otters, beaver, skunks (Western Spotted; not the striped variety), weasels and a wide variety of rodents, reptiles, amphibians and insects inhabit the fields, forests, shorelines and mountains of Pender Harbour.
- Coyotes - In recent years, the coyote population has grown tremendously as these canines have moved into populated areas of Pender Harbour. Their presence is a valid concern to small-pet owners.
Migratory and resident birds are plentiful and varied in Pender Harbour. It's an ideal place for birdwatching, with mild winters and a wide variety of habitats in a relatively small, accessible area. You could see 50 species in just a couple of hours, and nearly 200 species are sighted annually. There are 114 confirmed or suspected breeding species of bird in the Pender Harbour area.
Fish & Marine Life
Otters are common along the shoreline, and boaters rarely go far without seeing seals, dolphins or even a pod of killer whales (orca). A large and diverse population of undersea life is one reason that Pender Harbour is a world-famous diving destination.
2007: Stickleback “species pair” found on Nelson Island - UBC scientists announce the discovery of a stickleback “species pair” in a Nelson Island lake. Species pairs of related fish are common, but this variety, descended from the marine threespine stickleback, is found only in southwestern British Columbia. One species lives near the lake bottom (benthic) and the other closer to the surface (limnetic). The stickleback is a small, minnow-like fish with three characteristic spines that project upward from its back. Stickleback species pairs are studied to learn more about evolution.
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