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Richmond's Natural Environment

Wildlife and Habitat

Unique among lower mainland municipalities, Richmond is an island City located in one of North America’s most productive estuaries. The City has distinctive and important habitats that are a result of its place at the mouth of the Fraser River. Historically an intricate complex of wetland and bogs, the remaining natural areas of Richmond still form habitat for a broad range of flora and fauna.

In the Water
The cloudy waters of the Fraser River conceal a diverse and significant aquatic habitat. The inhabitants of our waters include:

  • Tiny invertebrates and small fish live throughout the estuary, providing food for over a billion out-migrating juvenile salmon. Without this “nursery” the Fraser River salmon would be deeply impacted.
  • Plying the waters around Richmond is the mighty white sturgeon, which can grow to over 3.5 metres in length and live up to 150 years; some individuals may have been born before Confederation!
  • The complex food chains found on the foreshore extend from tiny microorganisms to large mammals commonly seen around Richmond, including harbour seals and California / Steller’s sea lions.

Richmond’s unique position at the mouth of the Fraser River means the City has a key role to play in ensuring the health of the foreshore, for the benefit of the entire watershed.

In the Sky
The Fraser River estuary provides essential resting areas for migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway – a major migratory route for birds travelling between the western Arctic and southern areas of the continent of South America. The estuary also supports the largest overwintering population of birds in all of Canada, at certain times of the year playing host to millions of birds.

Richmond’s broad open terrain and extensive foreshore make it an ideal hunting ground for numerous species of raptors, including:

  • Bald eagles,
  • Red-tailed hawks
  • Coopers hawks
  • Falcons
  • Harriers, and
  • Owls (barn, snowy, saw-whet, short eared and others).

The City’s foreshore is home to numerous wading birds, the most familiar being the iconic great blue heron, but less well known are the endangered sandhill cranes who nest and rear their young here. Enthusiastic birders from across the world visit Richmond to see its astounding diversity; the City is proud to be host to both the visiting birds and those who appreciate them.    

On the Land
The islands that make up Richmond have only recently emerged from the sea, as material brought in by the Fraser River filled the estuary. As a result, much of the City’s terrestrial habitat is dominated by wetlands, sloughs, bogs and grassland. These areas have significant habitat value and are home to plants and animals found nowhere else. Although dramatic human-induced changes have occurred over the recent past, remnants of these habitats provide insights into the intricacy and importance of Richmond's ecological network.

Plants in our Midst
Unique plant communities are found in the City, primarily in the distinctive habitat of bogs. Wild blueberries and cranberries are to be found, along with delicate lilies and carnivorous sundew. Richmond’s plant diversity also includes the smallest flowering plant in the world (northern water-meal) and its forests contain one of the largest trees in the world (coastal Douglas-fir).  

Wildlife in Richmond
The City continues to support a variety of terrestrial and freshwater species, including: 

  • Deer
  • Coyotes
  • Beaver
  • Raccoons
  • Muskrats
  • Squirrels
  • Bats
  • Frogs
  • Snakes
  • Turtles, and
  • Salamanders.

Urban habitats also provide significant habitat for pollinating insects, which play a critical role in food production and ecosystem health. The City’s PDF Document Ecological Network Strategy outlines a number of ways the City and residents can benefit urban habitats.

Learn More
To learn about City policies for protecting natural areas, visit the Fish, Habitat and Wildlife section.