|Wildlife in the Canadian Rockies|
|Banff has an enormously wide range of habitats due to the variety of elevation, climate, and plant communities within the parks borders. In this relatively small area there is an incredible diversity of wildlife, with over 50 species of mammals. Here is a short description of some the parks larger animals.|
Perhaps the most famous of all Banff wildlife is the grizzly bear. This area has the perfect habitat for the great bear. Made up of sub-alpine forest, alpine tundra, meadows, rock, ice, avalanche slides all of which directly or indirectly contribute to the grizzlies existence. Unfortunately, it is the presence of humans that is the bears biggest problem which is something the park is well aware of and actively working on solutions for.
|While there are
more grizzlies in the park, you're more likely to come
across a black bear since they frequent the low lying
valleys that the parks roads pass through, rather than
the higher backcountry elevations that the grizzlies
It can be difficult to tell the difference between the grizzly and back bear because both bears have coats with a wide array of colors. These range from jet black to light cinnamon brown or almost white. The distinguishing feature between the two is the muscular hump on the shoulders of the grizzly formed by the muscles of its massive forelegs. This area of the bear has the "grizzled fur" that gave them their name. Grizzlies are, as a rule, larger than the black bear weighing in at as much as 500 kg. The blacks maximum weight is more in the vicinity of 290 kg. The average weights of these bears is generally closer to half of these extremes. The grizzly also has a more dished face and proportionally longer claw (if you happen to be close enough to see). "Teddy", is not the image conjured up on the site of an adult grizzly. Bear Etiquette. Enjoy, and above all, respect these great animals of the Rockies. This is their home and they need their privacy and your understanding to co-exist with us in such a popular area.
|One of the problems with our curiosity towards these animals is their adaptation to the site of us. People seem to have a natural urge to to feed them in order too get a better look. These pictures show the danger that befalls them when cars look like a diner. A mother sheep is teaching her young, as she was taught by her mother that the highway is a possible meal instead of a killing ground for wild animals. Don't contribute to this situation and please discourage others from interfering with the natural process.|
|Two good areas to view the
sheep and take photos are around Lake Minnewanka or on
Mount Norquay Road but remember to enjoy them and not to
If you are lucky enough to see a ram (a male) you'll notice his massive curved spiral horns. These make them easily identifiable more so than the ewes (the female) which have short, brown horns.
|Spring is also the time to spy a mother and her spotted fawn. The two species are very similar but the mule deer's large upright ears make it easy to differentiate between the two. The mule and white tail live in harmony with each other, as is characteristic of this species personality. You might get a glimpse of a moose traveling along the Icefields Parkway but their population is relatively low in the park, the habitat being more favorable to the deer.|
|Elk are the most common (not to mention the most famous) of the deer family in Banff. Wapiti, meaning white rump is their Indian name. The bull elks spectacular antlers have made them a photographers delight for years. In the autumn rut, the bulls become very aggressive towards people, so extreme caution should be taken. The spring is also a delicate time, with the mothers protecting their newborn calves making them as dangerous as a mother bear with young.|
|Caribou also have a presence in the northern end of the park in the Siffleur Watershed area but the herd is small and highly protected.|
Wolfs coyotes and foxes are the three representatives of the canine world in Banff. The most common is the wolf, which from a distance can be mistaken for our domestic sidekick, the German shepherd. At closer inspection you'll note they are rougher looking, with longer legs and larger feet. Their coats range in color from light whitish-grey to grey-brown all the way to black.
of the wolf, the coyote is smaller, with a long slender
muzzle and large pointed ears. You can often see them at
Vermilion Lakes, and the Bow Valley Parkway hunting for
small mammals and road kill.
The fox is easily distinguishable from the coyote and wolf with a sharply pointed face, special markings and a very large bushy tail. Their eating habits are very much like that of the coyote, becoming most active toward sunset, during the night, and in early morning.