While staying at the Juniper Hotel in Banff, your best bet to watch and/or photograph wildlife is to drive along the Vermilion Lakes, the Bow Valley Parkway or the Icefields Parkway early in the morning or late in the evening. The quieter seasons of Spring and Fall tend to be the best times of the year to see animals, particularly bear and moose. See below for a short introduction to the wildlife and wildlife activities in Banff National Park.
Banff National Park is home to 53 species of mammals. This incredible diversity of wildlife is a reflection of the wide range of habitats found in the park due to variations in elevation, climate, and plant communities.
There are 29 species of small mammals in Banff National Park. They range in size from the pygmy shrew, which weighs a fraction of an ounce, to the beaver, which can weigh up to 55 pounds.
There are eight species of ungulates or hoofed mammals in the park. They can be separated into two distinct families: the deer family, which have antlers that fall off and re-grow each year, and the sheep and goat family, which carry true horns that grow throughout the life of the animal. Visitors to the Park are required to keep a safe distance at all times, especially during the fall mating season and the spring calving season.
There are four families of carnivores in the park: the weasel, dog, cat, and bear families. Dog family includes wolf and coyote. Cat family includes mountain lion/cougar and lynx. Bears inhabiting the park are the black bear and the larger grizzly bear.
Over 260 species of birds have been recorded in Banff National Park. Spring and early summer are by far the most productive seasons. The best time for birding is between an hour before sunrise to 9 or 10 in the morning. Birds are generally more abundant in the montane and wetland habitats of the lower Bow Valley than in other areas of the park.
The Banff Town site area, the Cave and Basin marsh, and Vermilion Lakes are all productive birding areas. In order to locate some of the more interesting western species, such as the Varied Thrush and the Townsend's Warbler, an ability to recognize bird songs is indispensable.
Guided Nature Hiking
There are lots of great options for hiking in Banff National Park. Call and ask the Front Desk for up-to-the minute information about nature hiking in the Canadian Rockies. For wildlife viewing, ask for the binoculars available at the front desk: binoculars make hiking safer for everyone, and leave wildlife their own space. We also have suggestions for National Park guides who offer excellent programs.
Banff Community Bird Walks (April, May, and early June)
Come join the bird walks and soak in the sights and sounds of spring in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. Everyone is welcome whether it is your first time Rocky Mountain bird-watching or your hundred and first. Contact the concierge for this year's schedule.
Christmas Bird Count
Banff, Alberta, Canada's, Christmas bird count is part of one of the largest collaborative, amateur scientific efforts in the world. It has been underway for over 100 years. The Bow Valley Naturalists is the local hosting organization.
Authors we recommend for books on wildlife in the Canadian Rockies include Ben Gadd, Valerius Geist, Charlie Russell, Kevin Van Tighem, and Sid Marty.