Banff Wildlife

Banff National Park is the world’s third oldest national park and the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site – a corridor of protected areas that helps sustain biodiversity not only in the Rocky Mountains, but around the world. The World Heritage site sustains populations of all animals that have been known to call this wilderness home, including keystone species like the grizzly bear, wolverine, grey wolf and, after recent reintroduction, the bison. Though other that bears, marmots and a few other critters, most of this regions wildlife can be found throughout the year. Each season offers unique opportunities to understand the interconnectivity of this ecosystems biodiversity.

Seasons in the Wild

Spring (late April – early June)

The birth of a new season brings renewal to the Rockies. Spring is the best season for grizzly bears, as snow at higher elevations brings the bears down into the lower valleys and offers observers the chance to document unique behaviour. It’s also a time when many animals are giving birth, making spring also the best time to photograph ungulate young and predators and prey at work.

Summer (late June – August)​​​​

The warmth of summer also brings wildflowers, cloudscapes and magic light that make it an ideal time to document animals in the landscape. During berry season, bears are omnipresent and throughout the summer, ungulates frequently linger near water.

Fall (September – early November)

As the colours of fall take hold of the landscape, ungulates take centre stage. Moose and deer are common sights and the elk rut transports you, seemingly, into a land before time. Dramatic behaviour, beautiful coats and large antlers make this one of the best seasons of the year.

Winter (December – mid March)

With few people and no bugs, it’s hard to beat winter – even with the potential for arctic-like temperatures. The snowy season transforms the mountains and brings wildlife into the lower valleys in search of food, offering the best chance at finding the more elusive creatures: wolves, martens and otters.

Banff Wildlife 

Grizzly Bears

A large, male grizzly in his prime, such as grizzlies 122 (‘The Boss’) and 136, requires a massive territory to survive and thrive - even larger than the friendly confines of Banff. These expansive ranges help maintain genetic diversity and connectivity between population units, as female grizzlies are more confined, especially when raising cubs.

Elk

During the fall rut, elk use their antlers and strength to push a competitor to instigate a fight for dominance (ranging from mild to full aggression).⁠ The dominant bull elk gather numerous females together in a group, called a harem.⁠

Lynx

Their population is directly connected to that of the snowshoe hare. Every 10 years their respective populations alternate highs and lows, ensuring both species are always in balance with each other, and their ecosystem that they help sustain.

Great Grey Owl

They consume on average 6-8 voles a day to maintain their diet and are excellent hunters. Sitting atop a perch, they watch and listen for their prey. When they sense movement, they will either hover above their target, waiting for the right moment, or dive directly for the kill.

© images by Simon Jackson and Jill Cooper

Learn more about the wildlife that inhabits the Canadian Rockies over at Nature Labs.
Nature Labs is a virtual high school textbook. Built on a foundation of storytelling, they provide teachers with plug-and-play, inquiry-based resources to help students use nature as a real-world example of class lessons in order to advance nature literacy.
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