Beware off and respect Wildlife., Banff National Park
I went on a tour up to Johnson's Canyon. On the way theere was an elk standing near the side of the road, so the tour guide stopped the bus to explain and let us take pictures.
when asked why he wasn't letting us off the bus to get a closer look and get better pictures he explained that elk are the most dangerous animals in the Banff area. While 9 times out of 10 elk will be calm and harmless, it really sucks to be #10 and end up in the hospital for months with a punctured lung, or worse. He said he'd rather take on a grizzly than tangle with an angry elk.
Much of the wildlife is harmless..... however, don't try to get too close to any of the animals. They may seem tame - but don't test it! And please don't feed them. Not only is it harmful for them, it is illegal.
You are likely to encounter wildlife at some point. It is common to see cars slowing down or pulling over to take in the next nature show!
I have been fortunate to see wildlife on the following occassions:
- a bear cub (so cute!) wandering around a mainstreet in Canmore. The ranger came and rescued him and took him home!
- caribou walking through my campsite, and on another occassion grazing along the side of a quiet road.
- sheep crossing the road near my campsite
- a moose from a distance while I was driving on the highway
- and once.... a bear wandering along the treeline outside of a campground. You needn't be alarmed! There are rangers who keep a close watch and will post a sign of any bear spottings. If the situation were to be of a concern, the campground would be closed.
*** While hiking, I keep a can of bear spray with me. In all my 5 years of hiking, I've never once encountered a bear on any of the trails.
For updates on bear activity on trails, you can recieve reports at:
It should be self-evident, but apparently it is not, no one should ever approach a black bear. If you take some time to travel some of the side roads in Banff, chances are good that you will see a black bear snacking on berries along the side of the road. It is often easy to spot a black bear--just look for the bear jams (several cars pulled over to the side of the road with people pointing into the undergrowth.)
Parks Canada understands that people are going to pull over and gawk at the bears. People do want to see wildlife free and roaming. However, it is totally unacceptable to move towards the bear in an attempt to get a better photo. We saw this behavior several times. It is dangerous for the people, yes, but it is also dangerous for the bear. A bear that becomes accustomed to people is a dangerous bear and often in the end becomes a dead bear because park officials have to put it down.
The reason we go to places like Banff is to enjoy the stunning scenery and hopefully, if we are lucky, to get a glimpse of wildlife. Two things: if you whiz by at 60 miles an hour, you wont see the wildlife; and, you never know what is around the next corner. Speed kills animals and sometimes people.
Take these bighorned lambs. They were chewing gravel on the parkway without adult supervision. They seemed completely oblivious to the vehicles. What a shame it would be if someone came tearing through at too high of a speed to stop for the unwary lambs.
In my mind vacations are a time to slow everything down and take enjoyment even from the simple act of driving. What is the use of whizzing from one sight to the next in record speed. The journey is half of the fun.
If it is important to you to get good close-up shots of wildlife (it was for me) then for goodness sakes get yourself the right equipment. The disposable kodak cameras are not going to get the job done. Nor are the standard lenses that come with a SLR.
This guy looks pretty close--but in reality I was standing behind my car a good distance away from him. I never approached an elk to get a better shot. I just waited until they positioned themselves in my line of sight and I zoomed.
Many idiots walked right up to the elk getting within ten feet or so. Again dangerous for the person and dangerous for the elk. I hate sounding like a shrew, but you cannot imagine how many times we saw people approaching the wildlife.
This friendly little fellow is the golden-mantled ground squirrel. Quite cagy and darts in and out of rocks with great agility. Unfortunately, some hikers who came upon this fellow after us, tried to tease him. They held out their fingers to him as if offering food. Why were they surprised when he lunged at their outstrectched hands. Deserved a good biting, they did.
This photo is not real, it is a dramatization of events that I observed firsthand in Banff. The actors are trained professionals. Do not try this at home.
Seriously, I doctored this picture in photoshop to show my wife Becky next to an elk. But in Banff we observed a man coaxing his wife (or girlfriend) ever closer to a male elk so that finally she was within an arm's distance of the elk. The elk could have caused serious damage. National Parks are not petting zoos. I don't understand why people want to get so darn close.
Banff is home to many grizzly bears, however, the park enompasses such a vast area that it is highly unlikely that any one visitor will come face to face with a grizzly. They do tend to move up into the high country and backcountry in the summer when visitors are most plentiful. There are exceptions. In 2002 a grizzly sow and her cubs frequented the Morraine Lake area and several of the trails in the Consolation Lakes area were deemed to be very dangerous and hikers were told to hike in groups of six or more.
Certainly no one would want to get this close to a grizzly (it is stuffed and on display in the Lake Louise visitor center) but seeing a grizzly from a mile away or so is always thrilling. I have seen plenty of grizzly in Denali in Alaska, but none on the recent trip to the Canadian Rockies.
One thing is for sure, never move towards a grizzly. They are the most dangerous, unpredictable and deadly animals on the North American continent.
Remember you are in a Government controlled Park. Observe speed signs, be careful of the animals, do not pick flowers or go off the assigned paths so as not to damage the plants or flowers that take years to grow. Remember the animals are WILD BE CAREFUL around them. In September be aware you may have a snow storm. We did on the 25th of Sept.
One of Banff National Park's attractions is its wildlife, especially the larger mammals. Moose, elk, mountain goats, mountain lions, bears and wolves inhabit the park. They are quite a sight to see but they must be given space as they are wild animals. If they lose their natural fear of humans they can become a nuisance or even a threat.
Read all the literature about wildlife that the park staff give you. Do not feed or approach the animals, no matter how adorable they look. If there are baby animals then a protective mother cannot be far away. Mating season can bring out aggressive behaviour in animals. Seal and store food securely, and dispose of garbage properly. Be watchful while driving in case animals run out onto the road. When hiking, stick to marked trails and make noise so that you don't surprise animals. Avoid using strongly scented soaps and personal care products which could attract animals.
They may be cute and thy may look friendly but DO NOT feed the animals. This little guy has obviously been acclimitized to human contact which is not a good thing. These are wild animals. Sooner or later this the chipmunk will bite somebody or become so reliant on handouts that he won't be able to fend for himself. Let wild animals stay wild. Observe but do not interact!
Please be careful driving through Banff or any of the other National Parks as the road curves. You might find animals on the road, or you might miss an incredible view! Your navigator / passengers should keep their eyes peeled for wild life on the sides of the road. Make sure you have your camera handy loaded for the next amazing picture!
As you will be aware, there is plenty of wildlife within both Banff and Jasper National Parks. The unfortunate thing is that there are also some stupid mindless morons (and that is being polite!), chasing the wildlife everywhere just to get the special picture.
There are even more stupid mindless morons who seem to have lost the ability to read warning signs, and generals signs on how to treat any wildlife you should meet on the roads.
There were 3 incidents that amazed me:
1) People out of their cars, climbing a roadside banking to get a close up picture of a Black Bear - about 10ft away from a sign quite clearly saying "STAY IN CAR AT ALL TIMES - YOU ARE IN BEAR COUNTRY!"
2) People screeching on breaks (in wet weather!), getting out and abandoning their cars in the middle of the road to get picture of some Elk grazing at the side of the road - both scaring the Elk and blocking the road completely in both directions!
3) Some plonker, sitting right behind 4 bighorn sheep peeping his horn over and over and over to try and get the sheep to move! They were only on one side of the road - he could quite simple have slowly driven around them! Whats worse is that he got so close to them that they got a fright and ran away in all directions - what a complete idiot!
Be warned that there are lots of these people around - they should all be completely ashamed of themselves!
We are proud to say that we never put any wildlife or ourselves in danger at any time and paid complete attention to all signs at all times - after all, thats what they are there for!
Surprisingly, elks are most dangerous animals (even more than bears). They cause more injuiries than any other animals in the park. Do not try to get close to them and take photos. Their behaviors are unpredictable, especially during their mating season.
Well, not really a danger or warning in that serious sense of the word. More so, a word of caution. While they are cute to look at, chipmunks found in Banff National Park were really bold, and hungry little things. They wanted to keep eating and eating whatever you were having!
They do get frightened though, and hence scamper when you wave your hand a bit too hard. But will come back to disturb u over and over.
Zal was kneeling near this chipmunk and offering her hand as sniffing bait :)