See the Wildlife in Jasper National Park
Among the many vacation activities in Jasper National Park, wildlife watching is probably one of the first things vacationers thing of when planning their trip. After all, there really aren’t many places in the world where you can see such a wide array of wildlife in their natural setting.
Jasper National Park is known for a wide array of wildlife, such as grizzly and black bears, elk, moose, deer, wolverines, wolves, coyotes and many other critters.
The thing at the front of most vacationers mind when visiting the Canadian Rockies, and especially Jasper National Park, are bears.
Surprisingly, there are more grizzly bears in Banff than black bears. Grizzly researchers working on the Canadian Rocky Mountains East Slope Grizzly Project estimate that Jasper is home to about 70 of the great bears. You can tell a grizzly from a black bear by the large hump of muscle on a grizzly has on the back of its neck. Also, the shape of their face is a bit different: grizzlies have very broad round faces, like a frying pan, while black bears have narrow profiles, more like a dog’s. While grizzly sightings are rare, you may spot them in the backcountry or along the Bow Valley Parkway or the Icefields Parkway.
Black bears are considered to be a threatened species in Banff National Park, with only 35-40 left. Nonetheless, it’s still common to see them in the summer, especially while driving along the Bow Valley Parkway; the Trans-Canada Highway between Banff and Lake Louise and on the Icefields Parkway near Saskatchewan Crossing. Black bears in Jasper come in a variety of colors, including black, brown and cream, and eat everything from ants to dandelions to buffalo berries. They go into hibernation in late October and usually don’t wake up until late April to early May.
Moose are on the decline in Jasper National Park, due in part to the return of wolves, an unnaturally high number of deaths on the railways and highways, and a deadly liver fluke. You’ll have a decent chance of seeing moose in the ponds and lakes along the Icefields Parkway in the northern part of the park. The Saskatchewan River Crossing and Waterfowl Lakes areas are especially great for moose sightseeing in the spring and summer months. Both Jasper National Park to the north and Kananaskis Country to the south have large healthy moose populations.
One of the most common, and rewarding, animals to see on a Jasper National Park vacation is an elk. Jasper has a strong elk population reaching into the thousands.Highway 93, Highway 16 East and the Maligne Lake Road are all excellent venues for watching and photographing elk. Event the town of Jaspe is frequented by elk, who are very interested in eating the greenery in local’s yards and getting a break from predators they face elsewhere in the park.
For the chance to see some elk in the summer months, watch for big bulls along Highway 16 East or near Medicine Lake. In September you can join photographers and wildlife watchers from around the world for the famous elk rut along the banks of the Athabasca River.
Jasper National Park is home to both whitetail and mule deer, and both are common along Vermilion Lakes Drive and the Bow Valley Parkway, particularly in the spring. There are about twice as many mule deer in the park as there are whitetails and mule deer are common year-round in the vicinity of the Banff Centre and on Mount Norquay Road. Mule deer are larger and have a black tip on the end of their tail in contrast to the smaller, more slender whitetails who have a white underside to their tail.
Bighorn sheep are abundant throughout Jasper National Park and are most commonly seen along the Bow Valley Parkway at Backswamp, on Mount Norquay and Lake Minnewanka roads, and at the top of the gondola ride on Sulphur Mountain. The large rams are best viewed in the winter months when they are at lower elevations; in the summer, most of the rams and many of the ewes can be found by hiking into the high alpine meadows in the park.
Jasper National Park is home to about five different wolf packs. After being hunted to extinction in the 1950s, wolves returned in 1982 and have been thriving in remote parts of the park ever since. Numerous wolf sightings are made each year in the Lake Minnewanka area in winter.