Banff National Park is a 2500-square-mile protected area maintained by Parks Canada. Located in southern Alberta, this glacier-, forest- and tundra-covered park offers some of the Canadian Rockies’ best vistas and wildlife-viewing opportunities. In fact, Banff National Park is home to some of the most impressive mammals in the Western Hemisphere.
We’ll discuss some of the park’s most notable inhabitants and provide a few tips for maximizing your viewing opportunities below.
Hooves, Antlers and Horns in Banff National Park
Banff National Park is home to a variety of impressive hooved animals.
Both deer species are often spotted relatively close to roads and buildings, as are the park’s elk. Moose rarely wander far from the park’s freshwater reservoirs and wetlands, but visitors occasionally catch a glimpse of these massive creatures.
Mountain goats and bighorn sheep also live within Banff National Park’s borders. Visitors see both species from time to time, but sightings are relatively rare. The former tend to frequent the park’s high peaks, while the latter are exceptionally wary animals, who rarely allow close approach.
Apex Predators of the Park
Lucky Banff National Park visitors may have the chance to see wolves, bears or other large predators.
The large hooved animals of Banff National Park are certainly impressive, but the most incredible wildlife species you may see in the park are undoubtedly the large predators. After all, deer, elk and other hooved animals are common in many North American parks, but only a handful will give you the chance to see gray wolves and grizzly bears.
The park’s grizzly bears feed on a variety of prey, including fish, rabbits and other small animals. But they’ll also catch young, old or injured deer and elk from time to time. The park’s wolves, on the other hand, feed almost exclusively on the park’s large ungulates.
Sightings of these animals aren’t especially common, as predators tend to be secretive animals. This means they’ll often keep their distance from humans. Nevertheless, visitors do occasionally catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures.
Small Hunters in the Shadows
Although sometimes difficult to find, a variety of small- and medium-sized predators dwell within Banff National Park.
Most habitats with a diverse array of herbivores are also home to a number of predators, and Banff National Park is no exception. The bears and wolves may get the bulk of the attention, but the park’s small predators are important too.
Several small and medium-sized predators call Banff National Park home. Weasels and red foxes primarily subsist on rodents and other small prey, while lynx and coyote feed on rabbits and birds. River otters also live within the park’s borders. They spend most of their time hunting for fish, amphibians and mollusks in the park’s rivers and creeks.
The Birds of Banff National Park
A different assortment of bird species inhabits each of the park’s habitats.
Banff National Park is home to more than 280 bird species, including several of the world’s most spectacular species.
Gray jays and mountain bluebirds are both commonly seen around the park’s roads and buildings, as are pipits and mountain chickadees. A few woodpecker species also call Banff National Park home, but the American three-toed woodpecker is the one you’re most likely to see.
But it is the birds of prey that take center stage in Banff National Park. Bald and golden eagles are two of the largest and most impressive species. The former tend to hunt the park’s waterways looking for fish, while the latter prefer terrestrial prey, such as rabbits and pikas.
Ospreys hunt the same river valleys that bald eagles do, while red-tailed hawks stick to land-dwelling prey, as the golden eagles do. Loons, mallards and a variety of other waterfowl inhabit the park’s lowest elevations, while the white-tailed ptarmigan frequents the park’s highest elevations.
Maximize the number of animals you get to see on your trip by employing the following tips.
While Banff National Park offers excellent wildlife-viewing opportunities, there are a few things you can do to make the most of your trip. Just try to embrace the tips and tricks discussed below to make the most of your Banff National Park adventure.
- Plan your trip for the summer. While it is usually wise to avoid many North American parks in the summer, you’ll typically have the best chance of seeing a variety of wildlife species during the warm summer. This is when most of the park’s inhabitants are most active, and many will be accompanied by their young.
- Binoculars are a must. Several portions of Banff National Park are difficult to reach, and unfortunately, many of these places harbor some of the park’s most beautiful wildlife species. However, if you bring along a good pair of binoculars, you should be able to increase the number of animals you see.
- Bring bug spray during the warmer portions of the year. Because of its northern location, many Banff National Park visitors fail to realize how many mosquitos and biting flies appear during the spring, summer and early fall. Accordingly, you’ll want to make sure you bring a high-quality bug spray to keep the biting swarms at bay.
- Keep your eyes peeled when driving along the park’s roads. Many visitors take to the park’s trail system to see wildlife species. And while this is often a great way to see the park’s myriad animals, you’ll also want to keep a good eye out while driving around the park. Many of the park’s deer and elk, for example, often feed within sight of the park’s roads.
Tell Us About Your Experiences!
Banff National Park is one of the most impressive parks in all of North America. And because it tends to be a little less crowded than some of the other parks of the Rocky Mountains, it is a great place for wildlife lovers to visit.
Have you ever been to Banff National Park? We’d love to hear about your experiences! Tell us all about the wildlife you observed during your trip in the comments below.