Vaseux-Bighorn National Wildlife Area

Five California Bighorn Sheep in a field with and forest behind.
Photo: Neil Dawe © Environment Canada.
Vaseux-Bighorn National Wildlife Area (NWA), California Bighorn Sheep.

Description

The Vaseux-Bighorn National Wildlife Area (NWA) is located in the south Okanagan–Similkameen region of British Columbia. The NWA was established in 1979 to protect habitat for species deemed to be special and important, including the charismatic California bighorn sheep, which was considered endangered at the time. The Vaseux-Bighorn NWA provides significant habitat to federally listed species at risk as well as many species of migratory birds and other wildlife. The NWA is a dynamic natural system influenced by erosion, flooding, fire, grazing, and other natural processes. The NWA is important not only as habitat for local wildlife but also is part of an important habitat corridor for migratory species.

Mountainous landscape with a lake.

Photo: Dave Smith © Environment Canada.

Vaseux-Bighorn NWA, Landscape.

The Vaseux-Bighorn NWA officially became a federal property in 1979. The wildlife area took its name from Vaseux Lake and one of the area's most charismatic wildlife species, the California Bighorn Sheep. The Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) manages several separate units of land which comprise the Vaseux-Bighorn NWA. The NWA is also adjacent to Vaseux Lake, a federal Migratory Bird Sanctuary (est. 1923), and other conservation land holdings protected by the province, Nature Trust of British Columbia, The Land Conservancy of British Columbia and the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

The NWA includes habitats that extend from wetlands and riparian thickets around Vaseux Lake up to arid terraces dominated by antelope bitterbrush, and finally up to rugged hillsides, dominated by exposed rock and ponderosa pine. Old ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir parklands in the area create habitat for cavity nesting birds including Lewis's and White-headed Woodpeckers. Grasslands dominated by antelope-brush, sagebrush and blue bunch wheatgrass are unique to this area and provide suitable habitat for species such as Behr's Hairstreak and several bird species including the Long-billed Curlew. Extensive wetlands surrounding the Okanagan River channel and dyke system at the north end of Vaseux Lake provide excellent migratory bird habitat.

More information is provided on Vaseux-Bighorn NWA in the summary table below.

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Planning Your Visit

Follow a short boardwalk through Vaseux-Bighorn NWA and you'll be rewarded with magnificient views of the beautiful landscape from the wildlife viewing tower. Don't forget your camera!

The boardwalk and an information kiosk are both accessible from a small parking lot and some public events are offered locally by the Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance.

A Bobcat climbing up a rock.

Photo: Neil Dawe © Environment Canada.

Bobcat.

Public facilities: a small parking lot, a boardwalk, an information kiosk, and a wildlife viewing tower.

Vaseux Bighorn is one of ten NWAs receiving funding as part of Canada's National Conservation Plan -- established to conserve Canada's precious wildlife and to ensure that you have access to discover the nature around you. Visit, connect with nature, and leave only footprints behind.

For more information on what is permitted in NWAs, consult the NWA Management and Activities page.

 

Directions

Access to the National Wildlife is from Highway 97 (five km south of Okanagan Falls and nearly 15 km north of Oliver).

GPS: 49.303300, -119.535472

More information on access and permitting for Vaseux Bighorn NWA can be obtained by contacting the Environment Canada regional office.

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Map of the Area

Map of the Vaseux-Bighorn NWA boundaries

Map showing the Vaseux-Bighorn NWA

Long description for the Map

Map showing the area around the Vaseux Lake in the Okanagan region of southern British Columbia. The boundaries of the Vaseux-Bighorn and the Vaseux Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary are indicated. The contains six different distinct units and the migratory bird sanctuary covers the lake as well as a portion of land to the north-west of the lake. The units are named according to their location with respect to Vaseux Lake. The Northwest Marsh Unit and the Northern Wetlands Unit overlap with the migratory bird sanctuary. The other units are the Northeast Uplands unit, the Westside Unit, the Southeast Uplands Unit and the Irrigation Creek Unit, which is located a couple of kilometers to the East of the lake. The scale on the map is in kilometers. Permanent water, roads and highways are all indicated on the map. A small, inset national map situates the in Canada.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Vaseux-Bighorn NWA can also be viewed using Google Maps. Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information and does not represent the official map or site name.

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Summary Table

This table provides summary information for the Vaseux-Bighorn NWA
Protected Area designationNWA
Province/territoryBritish Columbia
Latitude/longitude49°17' North / 119°33' West
Size812 hectares, comprised of several discontinuous parcels
Reason for creation of protected areaHistoric: protection of critical winter range for California Bighorn Sheep.
Current: the area supports an appreciable assemblage of rare, vulnerable, threatened or endangered species.
Date created (Gazetted)1979 – Legal description
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management CategoryIV – Habitat/Species Management Area
Additional designations
Keystone or flagship speciesCalifornia Bighorn Sheep.
Listed Species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA)30 species listed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), 28 listed on Schedule I of the Species at Risk Act including the threatened White-headed Woodpecker, Lewis's Woodpecker, Pallid Bat, and Behr's Hairstreak, as well as the special concern Long-billed Curlew and Peregrine Falcon.
Main habitat typePonderosa Pine & Bunchgrass zones
Faunistic and floristic importanceRare plant communities (identified by the B.C. Conservation Data Centre as red or blue-listed): Antelope Brush, Needle-and-Thread Grass, Water Birch, Red Osier Dogwood, Bluebunch Wheatgrass, Arrow-Leaved Balsamroot, and Ponderosa Pine–Bluebunch Wheatgrass communities. 
Invasive speciesRiparian  For example (e.g.) (purple loosestrife, aquatic e.g. Eurasian Milfoil), upland e.g.Sulphur Cinquefoil, Reed Canary Grass, Cheat Grass, Purple Loosestrife, Smooth Brome, Bull Thistle, Diffuse Knapweed, Hound's Tongue, St. John's Wort.
Additional linksCalifornia Bighorn Sheep
Main threats and challengesNWA is anticipated to be under a high level of threat in the future due to population growth, recreation pressure, and alien and invasive plant species.
Management AgencyEnvironment Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)
Public access and usagePublic access allowed only on designated trail: wildlife viewing tower (Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory) and boardwalk.

Note: If there is a discrepancy between the information presented on this web page and any notice posted at the NWA site, the notice prevails as it is the legal instrument authorizing the activity.

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Contact Information

Environment Canada – Prairie and Northern Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas and Stewardship Unit
5421 Robertson Road
Delta, BC
V4K 3N2
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
Email: enviroinfo@ec.gc.ca