As the snow begins to melt away in the lower valley, Banff comes back to life! Here are some of the critters you might be lucky enough to see during a spring visit to Banff National Park.
You’d be hard pressed to not lay eyes on an Elk during your stay in Banff. These big fellas can grow to be up to a 1000 pounds (450KG) and grow antlers that may be over four feet in size (1.2m). Female elk (known as cow elk) are slightly smaller and will not have antlers.
If you visit Banff in the Fall, be sure to listen for the distinctive bugling of bull elk during the rut (mating season).
Spring is a special time for Banff’s apex predator. After a long winter of hibernation, the grizzly bears of Banff and Lake Louise will emerge from their den in search of food.
These beautiful animals deserve your respect. If you’re lucky enough to spot one, be sure to give them space and familiarize yourself with all of the necessary bear safety procedures.
The world’s finest engineers can be found throughout the many waterways of Banff National Park. Beavers are well know for their intricate dam construction – For a great example, check out the dam on the Legacy Trail between Banff and Canmore.
Unlike many of the animals found in the backcountry, Beavers mate for life and have an extended relationship with their offspring, often living together in the same dam for many years.
BIG HORN SHEEP
If you’re stuck in a Banff traffic jam, there’s a good chance that a herd of Big Horn Sheep are to blame. You’ll find no shortage of Big Horn Sheep on the Lake Minnewanka loop and in other steep, rocky areas, including the upper slopes of Mt.Norquay.
Male sheep (rams) will have trademark thick, curled horns, while females will have shorter narrow horns.
White rump? Check. Giant Ears? Check. Must be a mule deer! The only animal more plentiful than elk in the Banff Townsite are mule deer. Their light brown colour makes them difficult to spot, but if you look carefully, you’ll be sure to find a few munching on vegetation near the tree line.
Like elk, mule deer enter the rut in the fall. Be sure to give them plenty of space as they can be unusually aggressive during this time of year.
These stunning sea ducks are a very unique addition to Banff’s ecosystem. From April to September, “Harlies” travel to Banff and other mountain areas to nest in the river systems. (The only North American coastal duck to do so!)
The drakes (males) showcase an electric blend of white, rust and dark blue plumage. The hens (females) keep a much lower profile by using a dark brown coat to camouflage themselves while nesting.