Tuesday, 5 July 2022


Our province is known as Supernatural BC — and for good reason. British Columbia on Canada's far western shores boasts a rich and diverse geography. We are home to some of the most impressive fauna and flora on the planet — both living and fossilized. 

The province is home to more than a hundred native species including a few only known from British Columbia. Birds, bees, bats and insects soar, buzz & flutter on our coastal winds. Our nutrient rich coastal waters are home to diverse marine life from jellyfish, salmon to our coastal whales.

From great bears to wee mice, the Pacific Northwest is a paradise with abundant food resources. Here's a partial list for you to look for as you explore the province: Moose, Black and Brown Bear, Boreal Woodland Caribou, Black-tailed & Mule Deer, British Columbia Wolf, Roosevelt Elk, Eagles, Owls, Hawks, Steller's Jay, American Bison, Humpback, Orca and Blue whales, California Sea Lions, Canada Lynx, Collared Pika, Cougar, Dall sheep, Northern Elephant Seal, Northern Right-whale Dolphin, Wolverine, Yellow-Bellied & Vancouver Island Marmots, Vancouver Island water shrew, Queen Charlotte Hairy Woodpecker, Pine Grosbeak and Townsend Voles.   

The land they inhabit and you and I stroll upon was built by great tectonic forces that pushed and pulled large sections of the Earth's crust to the shape of the landmasses we see today. 

Our province is a crazy quilt of bits and pieces made up from the accretion of exotic terranes that have been added bit by bit lengthening our province from where it meets Alberta then west to were it meets the Pacific — the ocean we can thank for our mild climate.  

For those who live in Vancouver, we live upon the North American Plate which sits near the boundary of a major fault. The Juan de Fuca plate is slowly pushing against the edge of our province and slowly sliding underneath. 

That process of relentless pushing against the outer edge of British Columbia is what helped to form our mountains. Picture slowly pressing and sliding a table cloth along a table. As you press, the material bunches up, folds and builds small ridges. 

That faulting and folding mimics what we see across our world as the tectonic plates play the same role as your hand, pressing and pushing large sections of land. The movement and pressure is released as earthquakes and the eruption of volcanoes which have also shaped our province. 

Our climate has also changed over time. We can see this in the smooth mountains and deep valleys that were gouged or polished by massive glaciers. There was a time when the city I live in and much of our coast was covered in 2 kilometres of ice. It began to melt and recede from our Interior about 18,000 years ago and our coast around 13,000 years ago

Along that journey of province-building forces, the rocks we find here today record the life history of our province — and indeed that of the Earth — for over 600 million years of Earth's 4.543 billion year history. British Columbia's fossil bounty includes dinosaurs, marine reptiles, plants, insects, fish, sharks, bison, musk ox, mammoth, birds, pterosaurs, ammonites and trilobites!

British Columbia's Provincial Symbols:

Every province has their official list of provincial birds, gemstones and fossils. Here's the hit list for British Columbia:

  • Provincial Fossil: Elasmosaur
  • Provincial Gemstone: Jade
  • Provincial Fish: Pacific Salmon, Oncorhynchus (all seven species)
  • Provincial Flower: Pacific Dogwood, Cornus nuttallii
  • Provincial Bird: Steller's Jay, Cyanacitta stelleri
  • Provincial Tree: Western Red Cedar (and we boast some more than 2,000 years old!)
  • Provincial Mammal: Spirit Bear, Ursus americanus kermodei
British Columbia's Fossils — Honorable Mentions:
  • Lace Crab, Marrella splendens, Burgess Shale, Stephen Formation, Cambrian, 508 mya 
  • Ammonite, Canadoceras yokoyamai, Haslam Formation, Cretaceous, 80-84 mya
  • Fusulinid Foraminifera (one-celled animal), Yabeina columbiana, Marble Canyon, 260-268 mya
  • Ichthyosaur, Shonisaurus sikanniensis, Pardonet Formation, 210-220 mya
  • Salmon, Eosalmo driftwoodensis, Tranquille Formation, 52-53 mya
  • Trilobite, Olenoides serratus, Burgess Shale, Cambrian, 508 mya

Additional Reading:

If you are interested in reading more on the forming of British Columbia, I highly recommend Dr. John Clague's book: Vancouver — City on the Edge. It is very approachable and beautifully done. Dr. Clague is also Episode One of Season One on BC's Fossil Bounty coming to TELUS Optik TV Autumn 2022. I'll also put a copy of his audio on the Fossil Huntress Podcast once the episode airs in a few months.

To get to know your neighbours in British Columbia, you are welcome to visit www.speciesofthepacificnorthwest.com which shares many of our furry, feathery and fishy friends along with their names in Kwak'wala spoken by the Kwakwaka'wakw First Nations along British Columbia's coast.