Your heart skips a beat when the black bear ambles to a berry bush on the roadside. Lifting your camera, you hold your breath for the shot of a lifetime. Zooming in, you watch this huge beast using its flexible lips to delicately pluck fruit.
A Wildlife Haven
Black bear and grizzly sightings are common in the Canadian Rockies; however, as most cities and towns in the province are perched on the doorstep of wilderness, there are fabulous opportunities to view wildlife just about anywhere – on your own or on a guided tour. We have 587 species of mammals, birds and fish here, so the odds are definitely in your favour. Grizzly and black bears, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer, elk, bison, cougar and moose all call Alberta home.
The thrill of seeing wild animals is often experienced while hiking, biking or horseback riding in natural wildlife habitats. But, as National Geographic’s Digital Nomad Andrew Evans quickly discovered, sightings can just as easily occur while on a scenic drive.
Of course, Andrew had a slight advantage as he was granted the rare opportunity to explore Banff with one of our Wildlife Guardians. Animal education, rescue and conservation are important activities in all of our parks. To help protect both wildlife and people, the Wildlife Guardian programme was developed in Jasper and Banff National Parks. Bear sightings are exciting and can often cause traffic jams when people slow down – or stop – to watch. The guardians help manage crowds and traffic to ensure that all parties are safe. They also share their wildlife stories and educate visitors about bears and how to view wildlife safely.
An educational or interpretive tour is a great way to increase your chances of seeing wildlife, while gaining a greater understanding about Alberta’s animals. In the Canadian Rockies there are several opportunities to explore, including:
- Lake Louise Gondola: The scenic 14-minute Lake Louise Gondola lift ride offers some of the best grizzly bear viewing in the Rockies. At the top visit the Wildlife Interpretive Centre for interactive presentations and displays. Book the Trail of the Great Bear Walk to learn everything you need to know about staying safe in bear country.
- Discover Grizzly Bears: A bear sighting is 100 per cent guaranteed on this full day experience with Discover Banff Tours. Highlights include a stroll around Lake Louise and an educational tour of the 22-acre Grizzly Bear Refuge where you’ll meet Boo the bear.
- Evening Wildlife Safari: Dusk is the ideal time for spotting wildlife, as it’s when animals come out to drink and forage for food. On this two-hour tour, which leaves from the town of Banff, you’ll also learn about the challenges of protecting park wildlife and their natural habitat.
- Wildlife Discovery Tour: Leaving from the town of Jasper, this three and a half hour tour explores the Athabasca Valley. You’ll learn about the history, ecology and geology of Jasper National Park, while keeping your eyes peeled for wildlife like elk, deer, mountain goats, foxes, coyotes and moose.