The animals of Jasper

Caribou roam throughout Jasper National Park. If you want to catch a glimpse, just keep your eyes open.

Caribou roam throughout Jasper National Park. If you want to catch a glimpse, just keep your eyes open.

It’s early in the morning in Jasper National Park, a great morning for a drive, when the cry echoes through the car.

“Moose!”

(Or “Caribou!” Or “Bear!”)

Wherever you go in your Jasper National Park vacation, you’ll be surrounded by a huge variety of wildlife.

If the wildlife is your main draw, try taking your vacation in the fall and spring. They’re the slow seasons for visitors and animals tend to be easier to find.

And while there is no place devoid of animals, be alert particularly on Highway 93A, High 16 and the Maligne Lake Road, especially around dawn and dusk. You’re likely to be in for a show.

When it comes to large mammals that populate the park, one has to start with the elk. Jasper’s population runs into the thousands. They’re commonly seen along the three roads previously mentioned – or you might see one wander into Jasper town itself. They like the lawns … and the lack of predators.

Come late in the summer, and you could see the big bull elk in velvet near Medicine Lake. Or come in September and join wildlife enthusiasts from around the world for the elk rut along the Athabasca River.

Bighorn sheep are also plentiful in the park. The large rams come to lower elevations in the winter. In the summer, you can find the rams and many ewes if you hike into the park’s high alpine meadows. You might also see mountain goats. There are many in the park, but they can be a bit harder to find. Look high on the cliffs along the Icefields Parkway.
Mountain caribou sightings are frequent in Jasper, too, especially during winter and spring. Their range in Alberta is dwindling, but they are hanging on sttongly in Jasper, with a few ranging down into nearby Banff National Park as well.

Whitetail and mule deer both call the park home; mule deer, in particular, are common. Mule deer are the larger of the two and have a black tip on the ends of their tails. The smaller whitetails have a white underside to their tails.

Wolves have recently made a comeback in the area, and sightings are fairly common. Their smaller brethren, coyotes, have struggled in recent years, mostly because of increased traffic on the roads. Wolves are larger – they average about the size of a large German shepherd – and have a broad face. They come in many colors, including grey, black, white and brown. Coyotes have narrow muzzles and are greyish-brown.
Mountain lions do call the park home, but sightings are rare. Their tracks are much easier to find. They prey upon deer, bighorn sheep and elk.

And, of course, there are the bears. Black bears and grizzly bears are to be found in Jasper, though like many predators they can be difficult to find. Black bears, in particular, are a threatened species in the area. Despite their name, they sport a variety of colors, including black, brown and cream, and their diet ranges from ants to buffalo berries. They hibernate from late October through April or May. Grizzly bears, more populous in the area, have a large hump of muscle on their shoulders and broad, round faces.

 

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