Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wildlife at Banff and Jasper

There are abundant wildlife and wildflowers at Banff and Jasper. We saw bountiful of wildflowers along the highways in the parks and met quite a few large animals when driving in Jasper in July. There are more variety of wildflowers in the mountains along the trails we hiked; there should be more variety of animals there as well - though we saw quite a few different type of birds and small animals but we were not so lucky to meet large animals.


We met with a large group of Elks (female elks and young male and female elks) several times - the first couple of times we saw them in the meadows by the highways grazing; we saw another group of elks cross a river and then a road in front of us. We were also also fortunate to peek at a huge Bull Elk rest in its day nest on the way to Lake Maligne - thanks to a tour bus driver who spotted it from his high driver's seat! We then saw the same(?) Elk grazing by a creek near the highway on the way back to hotel from Lake Maligne

Black Bears

We had encounters with black bears twice. The first time was when we were approaching the town of Jasper in the evening of July 11th - a large black bear was wandering by road side - unfortunately my camera was out of battery I did not catch it on my camera; Justin and Nick did take a few pictures of it before the bear disappeared into woods as more and more tourists stopped to look at it. We met a black bear the second time when we were driving on icefield parkway on the way to Banff from Jasper - a black bear was walking along a creek by the highway. The bear was grazing and moving slowly along the creek, raising its head occasionally to look around, seemingly not bothered by the tourists accumulated on the other side of creek. I walked downstream in its walking direction ahead of it and moved away from the crowds, and got a few good pictures of it

We were also excited to see a grey Wolf on a tree log by the roadside and a coyote crossing the road right in front of our car - but we did not get good pictures of them

Small animals

When we hiked into the mountains, to glaciers, and to water falls, we were so much more closer to nature. We went hiking early in the morning, usually arriving at trail heads around 8 am, so we got a good chance to see wildlife. Though we did not encounter any large animals, we saw a lot small animals we could not name - we had to resort to park animal guide or online resources to identify them.

At the head of the trail to "plains of six glaciers" by lake Louise, after taking a few pictures there, the rest of my family moved on, I stayed around just a little bit longer. Glancing to the mountain side, I saw this big mouse-like rotten looking out from a rock. As I was trying to take a picture of it from a good angle, it disappeared. Just a few minutes later on the trail, Just spotted this same animal, which turned out to be hoary marmot, which is common to Jasper area, staking out from its hole under a big rock. Later on the trail, I heard a strange loud, piercing sound, I looked around and could not see anything, keep looking I finally saw another hoary marmot on a big rock above where we were, making the calls sporadically.

Another common small animal to Jasper area is columbian ground squirrel. I saw so many of them, especially at Lake Louise Ski resort, I wondered what their predators are. One particular columbian ground squirrel was particularly interesting, it stood on a big rock in a patch of small blue flowers, calmly checking hikers passing by!!

The first time I saw pika was by Lake Louise. I spotted a small mouse speeding from bushes to grass in an open area on lake shore, back facing me. It had very big ears - I was curious to see its front and whistled, it turned around and ran away in a split of a second. The next time I encountered this little animal was at rocky section of the trail of Mt. Edith Cavell. I was ahead of the rest of my family, then suddenly a little pika crossed the trail right in front of me, stopped, looked at me for a second or so, escaped with a small tree branch in its mouth.

Almost at the same time, Lily spotted a pair of black marmots playing in the rocks - they were frolicking each other, hugging, wrestling .... and then stopped for a moment looking at us, then chased each a bit more, frolicking, hugging was so cute. It was bit too far for me, but Lily got it good on her camcorder.

(to be continued: Birds & Flowers)

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