Jasper National Park is home to an incredibly diverse mix of wildlife. Animals and birds can be seen year-round, although some species have specific sleep patterns or migration routes that make them easier to spot at certain times of year. While the unique wildlife in the Jasper and Hinton area is fascinating to watch, some of the animals are susceptible to human disturbance, and others can be very dangerous. It is important to be aware of the different types of animals in the park, and how to respond when you encounter them.
Beavers are a common sight in Jasper, especially along the rivers and lakes where they like to build dams. The William A. Switzer Provincial Park has an interesting canoe route where you can cross beaver dams. In addition, the aptly named Beaver Dam Trail is another good beaver sighting spot. You can start the trail at the Overlander Mountain Lodge, and follow it all the way down to the beaver dams, where there is a lovely picnic spot.
2. Hoary Marmots
Hoary marmots can be seen on many Jasper hiking trails during the summer. These large ground squirrels have brownish black fur, with silver patches on their backs. They are distinctive because of the sharp whistling sound they make to alert others of danger. People often see these creatures from the Jasper gondola.
These spiny creatures are abundant throughout Jasper National Park. They like to eat leaves, herbs, and grass, and will also seek salty treats such as mineral-rich plants, and even clothing, footwear, backpacks, and tools that have a layer of salty sweat on them.
Other small mammals in Jasper include ground squirrels, pikas, rabbits, bats, and shrews.
Mammals in the Deer Family
Elk are the most common of all the hooved animals in Jasper National Park. You can spot them on hiking trails, roads, and even outside your cabin, lodge, or accommodation, munching on plants. The best place to spot them is on the elk rut along Athabasca River in September. Elks can be very dangerous, as they can attack people with their hooves and antlers. Be sure to stay clear of elk, especially if they have young with them.
Jasper has a large number of mule deer and white-tailed deer. The best places to spot deer are in the Maligne Valley and along Snaring Road. Be careful not to confuse these small, timid creatures with their more aggressive cousins, the elk.
The moose is a majestic creature that towers over the other members of the deer family. Unfortunately, moose numbers are dropping in Jasper, so sightings are not as common as they used to be. However, people sometimes spot moose in the Pocahontas Wetlands, the Icefields Parkway, and the Maligne Valley.
7. Woodland Caribou
Woodland caribou look like elk, but both the males and the females have antlers. These animals are getting harder and harder to find in Jasper National Park, but you may spot them in the winter time in the Maligne Valley or the Icefields Parkway.
Other hooved animals that you might spot in the park include mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and bison.
Carnivores and Omnivores
Wolves are abundant in Jasper, although they prefer to travel in areas away from human habitation. This means they are hard to spot. However, wolf packs have been seen in the Maligne Valley and the Valley of Five Lakes.
Coyotes are very common all across Alberta, and they will often scavenge for food around roadways, cities, and towns, as well as out in the wilderness. They look like dogs, with a grey or brown coat, a long muzzle, and pointy ears.
Jasper is home to both black bears and grizzly bears. Black bears like to spend the summers in low-lying valleys, foraging for food. They will eat anything, so it is important not to leave food lying around in campsites. Grizzly bears prefer to forage at higher altitudes, and they are extremely dangerous if approached. Visitors can see both types of bears in the Icefields Parkway, however it is important to keep a safe distance from any bear.
There are over 300 species of birds in Jasper National Park, including geese, ptarmigan, owls, loons, ducks, pelicans, bald eagles, woodpeckers, hawks, and swallows. Rare sightings include the burrowing owl, the white-throated swift, and the scissor-tailed flycatcher. The Cottonwood Sough on Pyramid Lake Road is a particularly good place to birdwatch.
Tips for Wildlife Viewing in Jasper and the Overlander
Travelers may come across wildlife in Jasper and the Overlander at any time of day, and in every season. However, the best time to see animals is during the spring and fall, when there is more food available for the animals to eat, and it is not too hot or cold. In addition, early risers will have the best opportunities to see animals hunting and foraging. The following are some safety tips for wildlife viewing:
- Never feed or touch the wildlife. This is illegal in national parks in Canada.
- Keep your distance. With carnivores and bears, you should stay at least 100 metres away, while 30-40 metres is a good distance to keep between elks and moose.
- Do not leave food or toiletries lying around campsites. This includes empty cans, bottles and packages, toothpaste, dishes, and leftover scraps.
- If an animal approaches you, do not make sudden movements, run away, or turn your back to it. Stay calm and alert. If it attacks, yell and fight back aggressively to try to scare it off.
Jasper National Park is one of the most diverse areas in North America to see wildlife in its natural state. As long as you follow some general safety precautions, you should be able to interact peacefully with the animals and birds here and enjoy their presence.
The Overlander Mountain Lodge is an ideal spot to base yourself wildlife viewing, as it is situated at the edge of the Jasper National Park, close to both of these amazing golf courses. The Overlander offers a unique mountain log lodge experience, with award winning gourmet dining, friendly and attentive service, and comfortable and relaxing accommodation.