The bison are back, around 65 grizzly and 40 black bears sleep all winter, all while the elk and deer graze year-round.
Banff is a wild place – which is mainly why people come to visit. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a protected treasure, and with a treasure like this, comes great responsibility. We want to share that with you so we asked our Discover Banff Tours’ wildlife guides – what they want you to know about wildlife tours.
1. We know you want to see a bear
The highlight for many travelers is seeing a bear. In the spring, you’re most likely to spot both grizzlies and black bears sticking to the valley bottoms, foraging for food after a long hibernation and the alpine remains full of snow. Come summer and fall, they are more active in the early morning and evening.
So while we know the best and latest areas bears have been sighted but remember, these animals are wild and are able to roam freely.
A guaranteed way to see a grizzly is with the Discover Banff Tours’ Grizzly Bear Tour. This will take you to Golden, British Columbia on a day trip to see the orphaned grizzly Boo who resides in his 20-acre Rocky Mountain habitat. Complete with lunch at North America’s highest restaurant, it’s a day trip not to miss.
2. Wildlife in Banff goes beyond just bears
There’s more to Banff than big bears – other common sightings include elk (often seen right in the town), deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, various bird species including cranes and geese, and if you’re near or on the river, beavers and muskrats are also common sightings. A Discover Banff Tours’ Evening Wildlife Safari will very likely see some of these natural locals.
3. Elk, moose or caribou?
Elk, also known as ‘wapiti’, a Cree word meaning white rump, are frequently seen and in large herds. Their racks are slender with numerous points coming off the main beam.
Moose are huge, as much as 6 ft tall, with a large bulbous nose and open handed shaped antlers. You might view them around Vermilion Lakes and along the Bow Valley Parkway. They are mainly solitary.
Caribou, also known as reindeer, are a species at risk and rare to see. Antlers are grown on both males and females and are a C shape.
4. The bison are back
The bison are back and it’s for the balance of ecology first, and perhaps human viewing later. The successful bison reintroduction to Banff National Park means the bison are roaming free while these keystone species adapt to the land they haven’t roamed since the 1800s. While you can’t see them yet, rest assured they’re in good hands while nature restores itself through this reintroduction.
5. We want to keep everyone safe
Safety is our first priority, both for you, us, and the animals. Vehicles and crowds of people stress the animals out and they can become defensive.
For the safety of visitors and the animals, Parks Canada recommends 10 bus lengths from bears, 3 bus lengths from elk, deer, and other mammals. In metric terms, this is 100 metres from bears (unless you are inside a vehicle); 30 metres from all other large species 200 metres from coyote, fox or wolf dens.