~Since 1977~
Visitor Guide

Wildlife in Banff

Wildlife in Banff National Park.

Most animals are more active in the early morning hours and at dusk. Deer, elk and big horn sheep are often seen in the middle of the day. You may hear the howl of coyotes in the nearby forests at night, but not be able to find one of the animals during daylight hours.

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The Park is home to both grizzly and black bears. Although not often seen, you should be aware of their possible presence when you’re walking or hiking. Also remember that the grizzly’s continued existence depends upon people’s sensitivity to its habitat, so keep a safe distance should one cross your path, including when travelling in your car.

In the Banff townsite, you can often see members of the resident elk herd wandering by. The elk divide their time between the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course, several open recreation areas and the fields by the town’s industrial area, on the north edge of town. Given the opportunity, they will snack on the flowers in local residents’ backyards, or in the gardens of the Park Administration Building near the Bow River Bridge at the end of Banff Avenue. Another popular place to see elk is along Tunnel Mountain Drive near the Banff Centre. They often graze near the parking lot on St. Julien Road, or cross the paths of hikers taking the trail to the top of the mountain. Also check out The Fenland Trail, near Vermilion Lakes on the edge of town, which is a good place for viewing coyotes, a wide variety of interesting birds and elk.

Surprisingly, elk are the most dangerous animals in the park, so remember to keep a safe distance from them. 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.

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Take it slow as you make the winding drive up Mt. Norquay Road toward the ski area, or the road to Sunshine Village ski area, for both may include encounters with big horn sheep. These animals are attracted to the mineral licks along the roadside and usually appear in small groups. Both males and females have horns, although the male ram’s horns are curled and much larger.

Lake Minnewanka and the area surrounding Sulphur Mountain near Banff are excellent places to watch for the bighorns, as is the Fireside Picnic Area off Highway 1A between Banff and Lake Louise. Many people confuse the sheep with mountain goats. However, the goats are generally found only in high, rocky meadows above the tree line and are white while sheep are brown.

If you continue west on Hwy. 1A, you may see elk, deer and coyotes and an occasional black bear near Johnston Canyon. The Lake Louise and Moraine Lake areas provide many opportunities to see pikas, marmots, marten and porcupines. Grizzly bears and black bears are frequently seen in the area.

A visit to the Parks Information Centres will provide additional information about animal behaviour, as well as information about hiking trail closures and bear activity in the vicinity. Keep in mind that it is illegal to feed, disturb or hurt the wildlife.

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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 - Banff National Park.