Wildlife in Jasper
Visitors to Jasper National Park may not encounter all 69 species of mammals that make their home here, but the search will lead travellers through some of the most beautiful and varied terrain in the world. Jasper is home to 29 species of small mammals ranging in size from the tiny pygmy shrew to the beaver. Nearly all of Jasper’s small mammals are rodents. Some include the Columbian Ground Squirrel, the Hoary Marmot, the porcupine, the beaver and the pika.
The most exciting animals to see in the wild are the larger mammals, including wolves, coyotes, cougars, moose, elk, mule deer, and, of course, black bears and Grizzly bears. A large number of wolves and coyotes live in Jasper National Park. Whereas coyotes have a brown-gray coat and a bushy tail, wolves can be any number of colours. Jasper’s wolves are pre-dominantly darker than their gray cousins elsewhere. Very fortunate visitors may see individual wolves or even packs from their cars in the Snaring River and Highway 16 East (Pocahontas) areas. Wolves have also been spotted from Maligne Lake Road during the winter months. Coyotes may be seen in open meadows or around Maligne Lake Road, Highway 16 and Pyramid Lake Road.
Eight-hooved mammal species live in Jasper National Park, including moose, elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, woodland caribou, mountain goat and bighorn sheep. The largest hooved animal in the park is the moose, and it may be spotted at Pocahontas Ponds, Yellowhead Pass, Maligne Lake, anywhere along the Maligne Lake Road from Medicine Lake to Maligne Lake, Highway 16 and Highway 93A.
Elk are dark brown with tan rump patches and can be seen throughout the park along roadways and in the town of Jasper. Surprisingly, elk are the most dangerous animals in the park. During the spring, the females will protect their calves by slashing their hooves, and in the fall the rutting male elk use their antlers as weapons against anybody who ventures too close. The best time of year to see the elk is during the summer when the bull elk’s antlers are covered in velvet. They venture out along Highway 16 East and near Medicine Lake.
Mule deer are very common in Jasper and can be seen along the Maligne Lake Road in the spring and summer months. They are easily distinguished from their less common cousin, the whitetail deer, by the black tip on the end of their tails. Mule deer are also seen in the area of Pyramid Lake Road, Snaring River Road and the Jasper townsite.
Approximately 300 healthy black bears live in Jasper’s forests. Black bears are not exclusively black. They can also be cinnamon, brown or cream. They have short claws, which they use to dig for roots and climb trees. They may be seen along roadsides and occasionally in campgrounds in the spring and summer along the Icefields Parkway, Hwy. 93A, Hwy. 16, the Maligne Lake Road and the Miette Hot Springs Road.
Grizzly bears are usually larger than black bears and distinguished by a massive hump of muscle across their shoulders. The grizzly’s face is broad and flat, whereas the black bear’s muzzle is long and thin, like a dog’s. There are approximately 200 grizzlies in Jasper National Park—making it one of the largest protected populations of Grizzly bears in the world. Grizzlies are more frequently sighted in Jasper National Park than anywhere else in Alberta, especially along the Icefield Parkway, Highway 16 East and the Maligne Lake Road. Remember that the Grizzly’s continued existence depends upon people’s sensitivity to its habitat.
DON’T FEED THE BEARS! Roadside bear jams and illegal feeding events occur, which often result in bear habituation. ‘Habituated’ bears lose their natural fear of humans, and almost inevitably become “problem” bears. They actively seek out places where people congregate because they have learned that there will likely be food and garbage to eat. Over time they become increasingly more aggressive in their search for an easy meal, and such bears are therefore at greater risk of removal, or being destroyed because of the threat they pose to public safety. It is very difficult, and often impossible, to undo habituation. Parks Canada - Jasper National Park.