Sad story to read in the Lake Louise Visitors Centre about the bear who had to be killed because she kept coming back to Lake Louise. Apparently the bear & her cubs were airlifted out & set free many miles away from the tourists, but the adult female returned twice to her home & paid the price with her life.
Maybe that's why I never saw a bear!!
This stretch of forest was burned within the past five years under the controlled fire program. Forestry experts now understand that periodic fire is necessary for the ecosystem. Therefore, park personnel set controlled fires periodically in order to both thin out old growth and to prevent calamitous fires in the future. The forest regenerates itself from the ground up and as seen here the hungry elk take advantage of the young and tender growth.
Several of the elks that we observed were tagged. This fellow is number 639. If I were an elk (which I may be as you can see by my pasport photo) I would be pretty cranky if some zoologist/conservationalist tranquilized me and then tagged my ear. But in order to track feeding habits, mating habits, population densities, range etc. it is necessary to identify individual elk in some manner. I'm just glad I'm not in old 639's hooves.
The young bighorned sheep seem to graze together in clusters. Often times they are accompanied by mom--but she was nowhere to be seen on this afternoon. You will never see dad tending to the lambs. In the summer the males are up in the high country keeping to themselves. Very difficult to spot males in the summer unless you are up in the high country yourself. If you are interested in male bighorns, please see my Glacier National Park page.
It was thrilling to see elk along the Bow Valley Parkway for the first time. I didn't realize how many times we would run into elk on our journeys hin and yon. Elk are very common in Banff. Maybe you have heard the stories about how they trim the rough and keep the golfers company at the Banff Springs golf course. Or how the most audacious elk walk the streets of Banff in the winter months. If you keep your eyes open and get out and about a little bit--you will see elk. Enjoy the experience. To me, knowing that there are elk in the woods is a comforting thought.
Ok, ok, last elk tip, but I can't promise that they won't appear in a travelogue.
An elk bull will generally weigh about 700 lbs--40 of those pounds are up top in the antlers. Can you believe that the males shed their antlers every spring and then regrow them throughout the summer. They have to be ready by rutting season in September or October because they may well have a battle for their choice of female.
Antlers are layers of cartilage that mineralize into bone. In the spring and early summer the antlers are covered by what is called velvet. The velvet is full of blood vessels that carries nutrients to the ever growing bone. By August the antlers are fully mineralized and the elk are ready to shed the velvet which they do by rubbing their antlers against rocks, shrubs and trees. Did you know that the antlers can grow as much as an inch a day. The key to a large rack is eating a healthy diet. The more an elk eats and the better an elk eats, the larger his rack is going to be. It is assumed that the females prefer the strongest and healthiest males and the size of the rack shows her just who is king of the grazing land.
We tried hard to see our paddling friends. We got up early and went to the bird blinds in the Cave and Basin area of Banff townsite. We got up early and braved the bugs at Vermilion Lakes. We stopped at all of the lakes along the Icefields Parkway, but we bagged very few ducks. Only the Common Goldeneye, the Lesser Scaup and a Loon. We had been hoping for the Harlequin Duck, but it was not to be.
The Clark's Nutcracker is a shameless begger. They have become so accustomed to handouts from the tourists that they will hop on your picnic table and chirp at you with a cheekiness that defies all decorum. A good-looking bird, too bad it has been turned into an alpine seagull.
Went to the Canadian Rockies to find the Minnesota state bird (no all you wisenheimers, the Minnesota state bird is not the mosquito). Loons are cool to look at, but much cooler to listen to. They have a long yodel like call that establishes territory rights. They can remain submerged for up to three minutes.
We first caught sight of this handsome fellow on the path to Consolation Lakes. When he saw us he scampered away. But as we turned the bend I could hear rustling off to the side. Investigation revealed that the marmot had taken refuge under an old log. He popped out of the log and looked at me--so I focused the camera. The camera noise spooked the marmot and he dived back under the log (not realizing that his ample rump was in plain sight). After a minute or so he once agains showed his face, only to dive back into his refuge when he realized I was still there. This went on for a good six or seven minutes. Finally, the marmot cooperated and showed me a good profile and in return I moved along and left him to his foraging.
We saw black bears several times along the Icefields Parkway. Only got a picture of this one. North of the Crossing we saw a mother and her cub and I wanted to stop to see if we could get a photo, but instead encountered a lunkhead who was pushing his kids to get closer to the bears. Why would anyone want to fool with a mother bear when she is in the vicinity of her cub. A recipe for serious injury. So we moved on unable to suffer the fools.
These cheeky little fellows popped up everywhere and were a joy to see. Please do not feed them although they will squeek for your attention = when tourists are thin on the ground they have to survive on their own
Spermophilus lateralis. Feeds on vetch, berries, bark and seeds. Also eats a number of fungi before hibernation in the early fall. Lifespan of about four years.
Good thing Zrim has his telephoto lense so that the bear looks a whole lot closer than it really is. The bear is still at least 100 feet away and that is close enough. Bears are great to watch....from a distance.