Local Wildlife FAQ’s

Below are some frequently asked questions about Hornby Island wildlife that we hear at the Centre.

Did I see an Otter or a Mink?
The difference is in the tail and size of the animal. Otters have large tapered tails, while minks have round skinny tails. Minks are generally more brazen and can be seen in tidal areas; they are solitary animals that are often seen during the day. Otters will sometimes be seen during the day, but are mostly diurnal in the summer months due to the increased traffic here. They can be seen in groups, which are, oddly enough, not family groups but groups of young males.

Was it a Sea Otter?
Highly unlikely. There are no sea otters here yet. One was seen near Victoria in the summer of 2014, but it  was the first and only in a long time. You likely saw a river otter. Although they are called river otters, they will swim, fish, and spend tons of time in the ocean, even crossing between Hornby and Denman. They just need fresh water seeps, ponds, and creeks to wash the salt from their fur once a day.

What type of Deer?
The deer here are a subspecies of mule deer, known as black tailed deer.

Did I see an Eagle or a Vulture?
An eagle seen from below has a prominent head and a prominent fanned tail. They soar with a flat flight profile. Vultures, on the other hand, have a V-shaped flight profile and a small head when seen from below. Eagles start leaving in early August to feed at the salmon spawning grounds, and the nesting pairs begin to return again early October. Vultures migrate to Hornby from Southern California in early summer.

Are there Sharks?
Yes, they are called six gilled sharks. Six gilled sharks have six gills, obviously, as opposed to regular sharks which have five gills. They are deep water sharks, that migrate to shallow water at night to feed. They are generally harmless.

Poisonous Snakes?
Nope. Just garter snakes. Although, two years in a row people have been mentioning a snake around Tribune Bay that sounds like a king snake. It could be nothing, but it’s also possible that someone released a potentially dangerous snake.

Most Common Owls?
The great horned owl and the barred owl.

Are there Racoons?
There are no racoons currently on the island. However, they were here in the early 70s and likely before that time.

Are there Possums?
Yes, lots of opossums here. The population started from a single pair that someone brought in the 80s.

Cockroach-like Creatures on the Beach?
These are called isopods. Isopods are a group of insects that all look like pill bugs (potato bus, rolly pollys, etc.) and includes pill bugs. Unfortunately, there are around 4,500 types of isopods so identifying them any further would require a masters in entomology or an extremely interested insect enthusiast.

Orange Jellyfish?
The orange jellyfish here are called lions mane jellyfish. They can get very big and are particularly abundant during years when the salmon runs are low. This is because young salmon feed on Jelly larvae. Also, they sting. They sting even when they are dead. Don’t touch them!

Pictured above: Kayaking with sea lions by Rachelle Chinnery.