Jasper National Park is the largest and wildest of Canada’s Rocky Mountain Parks and it is a fantastic place for wildlife watching. On a recent visit, we rounded a corner on the Maligne Lake road and spotted a small herd of bighorn sheep including an absolutely enormous ram. His massive horns curled around his head and he looked up at us from a spot near the edge of the road. He was absolutely beautiful. Here are some of our favorite photos and some suggestions for how to find and photograph wildlife in Jasper.
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Wildlife Watching Safety Tips
Here are a few safety tips for wildlife viewing in the Canadian Rockies:
- In the words of Parks Canada – “take scenics, not selfies.” It’s really important to keep your distance when photographing wildlife. That means you’re going to need a camera with a good zoom lens. If you don’t want to invest in a DSLR, you can buy an inexpensive zoom lens for your phone.
- Never feed or touch a wild animal. It’s illegal, it’s unsafe for you and it’s bad for the animal. Many people are injured by deer every year when they get too close. Deer hooves are very sharp.
- If you’re driving and you spot an animal, pull over to the side of the road and stay in your vehicle. It’s especially hazardous to get outside your vehicle to take a picture of a bear or a moose.
- If you’re hiking in Jasper, be bear aware and always carry bear spray in case you surprise a bear and it attacks.
Jasper’s Land Mammals
There are 53 species of mammals in Jasper National Park and many birds. The most commonly seen animals are elk, deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, black bears, grizzly bears, coyotes and wolves. You may also see smaller species like marmots, pikas and squirrels. If you are very lucky, you might see a caribou.
When to see Wildlife in Jasper
The best time of day for nature photography and wildlife watching is usually early or late in the day. Spring and fall are the seasons when animals are most active, but you can see wildlife in every season – even winter. Bears hibernate in winter, but many other species are active.
Black Bear or Grizzly – How to Tell the Difference
Body shape is the easiest way to identify a grizzly. Grizzly bears have a pronounced shoulder hump. They are also typically larger than black bears. They have a concave or “dished” facial profile, smaller ears and much larger claws than the black bear. (If you’re close enough to see the claws, you’re too close.) Black bears have a flatter nose, larger ears, smaller claws and no visible shoulder hump. Both species can come in a variety of colors, so color is not a good way to tell the difference. A cinnamon colored black bear is still a black bear and a blond grizzly is still a grizzly. Even though they are sometimes called “brown bears” in the United States, grizzlies can vary in color from light cream to black.
Where to find Jasper’s Wildlife
No matter the season, we always see wildlife in Jasper National Park. Make your first stop the Parks Canada Jasper Information Centre to talk to park staff about the latest wildlife sightings. The building is a national historic site. In our experience, Maligne Lake Road is a great drive for wildlife. We saw 10 moose on that road on a recent autumn drive. We’ve also had good luck seeing bears on the Pyramid Lake Road. We’ve spotted wolves along the Icefields Parkway and other wildlife as we drove around the park. Bighorn sheep sightings are almost guaranteed on the road to Miette Hot Springs. If you drive slowly and look carefully, you will see wildlife.
Wildlife Watching Tours in Jasper
We usually explore on our own, but on one visit to Jasper, we experienced a wildlife watching tour with Sundog Tours. We had a great time and saw moose, elk and deer during our day tour. It was a stress-free way to see and photograph wildlife.
Related: Check out our post Jasper in Winter – 12 Stunning Photos.