One of the best things about my recent trip to the Canadian Rockies was the huge amount of wildlife I saw. An excellent book for identifying the various animals one can see in this area is ‘Handbook of the Canadian Rockies‘ by Ben Gadd. I got this book in Jasper, but it seems to be hard to purchase in the UK. The book also has excellent information about the geology, ecology and history of the area, and was well worth buying.
Here’s a list of of the sightings I had.
Black bears. The most amazing wildlife experiences of the trip were the 6 sightings I had of bears. 3 of these were on the Icefields Parkway – the most memorable of these being the large black bear that ambled nonchantly across the road in front of my car in the early morning rain as I drove from Jasper to Tangle Ridge, but also notable was Lesley’s first ever bear sighting, a small black bear eating dandelions at the side of the Icefields Parkway near Nigel Creek (photo here).
As already mentioned in the previous posting ‘Canadian Rockies #4; Hikes‘, I also had a lone encounter with a cinnamon-coloured black bear whilst hiking near Lake Pyramid.
Whilst driving on Highway 93 through Kootenay National Park Lesley and I saw a black bear by the side of the road, eating dandelions again. This sighting was especially memorable because we noticed a tiny cub above the mother bear hiding in the trees (photo here). This encounter was spoiled a bit however by the steadily increasing numbers of tourists stopping their vehicles (and obstructing the highway, especially the RVs), exiting, and getting far too close to the bear to take their photos (they really should have bought telephoto lenses if they wanted to get closeups). It left me feeling guilty about intruding on the bear’s peace and quiet, especially as it had a cub, but it never seemed to be upset or distracted (but then who knows what is truly going on in a wild bear’s mind?). I half-hoped that the bear would start attacking the closer tourists and thin out their numbers a bit.
Not long after this, on the same road, I spotted another black bear (quite a bit larger than any others we had seen) by the side of the road, and we stopped to have a look. This time we were the only people to notice it and there was no ‘bearjam’ of vehicles. The bear walked right up to the car, so close that we got a bit scared even though we were inside the car. This was the closest encounter of the whole trip (photo here).
Elk. The woods around Patricia Lake where Lesley and I stayed for a week were crawling with elk and it was rare for a day to go by where we we didn’t see at least one from the road whilst driving between our lodge and Jasper (photo here). We saw male elk with huge antlers and also a female with a small calf.
Bighorn sheep. Lesley and I came across a herd of bighorn sheep on the road between Minnewanka Lake and Banff licking minerals off the tarmac. They didn’t seem bothered at all by all the cars stopping to take photos and were also reluctant to get out of the way (photo here).
Birds. The most impressive bird sighting Lesley and I both had was a bald eagle on the drive between Golden and Radium Hot Springs in British Columbia, but we also saw lots of american robins, and a gray jay at Kananaskis Lakes (photo here). I also walked right past a pair of ptarmigans (which are also quite common in the Scottish mountains) in the snow on the slopes of Pyramid Mountain (photo here).
Small furry things. We saw lots of these. I spotted a marmot on Pyramid Mountain that squeaked loudly at me, and Lesley and I saw chipmunks and squirrels (photo here) in lots of places. We also saw things that could have been weasels or martens running in and out of the woods by the side of the road in several places.
No moose! Or grizzlies, wolves and cougars, thank goodness.