Wildlife In Jasper National Park
Welcome to the Wilderness
Jasper National Park is home to an abundance of wildlife. The park is home to 53 species of mammals. These mammals depend on a variety of habitats for their survival. We as people share some of the habitat areas with these animals which is why we get to see such a variety of wildlife.
The survival of the wildlife depends on us making as little impact on their environment as possible. The mountain landscape may look harsh and rugged, but the ecosystem is very fragile.
While visiting the parks you can expect to see a variety of large mammals. The most common wildlife encountered are Elk, Caribou, Deer, Mountain Goats and Big Horn Sheep. If you are lucky, you will glimpse a Moose either in the early morning hours or at dusk. If you plan on doing any hiking, you will likely hear the high-pitched whistle of a Marmot or Pika when you climb above the tree line. Eagles and Ravens can be regularly seen overhead or perched high in a tree or wandering around town looking for human food.
The most important thing to remember when visiting Jasper National Park is that the animals you encounter are wild. To help preserve their population these animals need to be left alone. If you see an animal by the side of the road, stay in your vehicle and admire their beauty from a safe and respectful distance.
Interactions with humans can cause animals to become too comfortable with people, to seek out food from humans and can end in disaster. Every year human interaction and interference results in animals needing to be relocated or euthanized. Keep the wildlife of Jasper National Park safe by staying in your vehicle.
All of the photographs we show are taken from in our vehicle at a safe distance. A good zoom-lens will help you take great shots and stay safe!
Here are 5 fun facts about each type of animal you may encounter while visiting Jasper National Park!
- Caribou and Reindeer are the same animal
- Both the male and female Caribou grow antlers
- Caribou regrow their antlers every year. Males shed their antlers in the autumn after mating season since they use their antlers to compete with other males. Females shed their antlers after they calve in the late winter/early spring.
- Females are generally 180-260lbs, males are substantially larger at 350-400lbs
- During migration, Caribou can travel 20-55km per day in a heard ranging from 5,000 to 50,000 members
- Most commonly seen are the White-Tailed Deer
- Their coat is a reddish-brown in the summer and grey-brown in the winter. This deer is easily recognized by the white underside of its tail. It will raise its tail and sprint away when alarmed.
- Females (Does) are on average 90-200lbs, males (known as Bucks) are on average 150-300lbs
- Male deer regrown their antlers every year. Females do not have antlers
- Deer are commonly hunted for food and to control the population
- Moose are distinguished by their large, broad palm-shaped antlers
- Moose are really big, An adult Moose can stand 1.4 to 2.1m (4.6 to 6.9 feet) high at the shoulder, which is more than a foot higher than the next largest deer on average
- The Moose is the second largest land mammal in North America (behind the Bison)
- Females are generally 478kg (1,054lbs), males are substantially heavier at 634kg (1,400lbs)
- Due to their size, there are few natural predators for Moose. Grey Wolves and Brown Bears have been known to go after pregnant Moose and their young calves.
Big Horn Sheep
- Male sheep (Rams) are distinguished by their large curved horns, female sheep (Ewes) have short, straight horns
- Ram’s weight can exceed 230kg (500lbs) with their horns weighing up to 14kg (30lbs), Ewes’ weight can exceed 90kg (200lbs)
- Big Horn Sheep graze on grass and shrubs and are generally found in large herds
- The natural predators of Big Horn Sheep are bears, cougars and wolves
- Big Horn Sheep are generally found in steep, rocky terrain for which they are well adapted to climb and forage
- Male goats are known as “Billy”, this is where the term “billy goat” comes from. Female goats are known as “Nanny”
- Both male and females have beards, short tails and long black horns. These horns continue to grow throughout their lives and contain growth-rings.
- The Mountain Goat has a very thick, white fluffy coat which molts in the spring and thickens in the winter. Their coat can keep them warm in extremely cold weather such as -46C (-50F) and up to 160km/hr (99mph) winds.
- Mountain Goats can weigh between 45-140 kg (99-309 lb) with the males being up to 30% larger than females
- Mountain Goats have specially designed hooves/feet to allow them to climb very steep cliffs (up to 60% incline). You will find Mountain Goats at high altitudes which can exceed 4,000m (13,000 feet), they are the largest high-altitude mammal.
- Males (Bulls) weigh 320-331kg (705-730lbs), females (Cows) weigh 225-240kg (496-530lbs)
- Only male Elk have antlers, they grow each spring and are shed in the winter
- These antlers are made of bone and can grow up to 2.5cm per day, ending up weighing almost 40lbs by the time they are shed
- Both male and female Elk grown thin neck manes and are distinguished by the small, light colored rump patch and short tail
- For the majority of the year an Elk herd is made up of approximately 50 females and their young. Male Bulls are not part of this herd.
Columbian Ground Squirrel
- Sometimes referred to as “gophers”, these small rodents burrow in the grown to create vast tunnels
- Ground Squirrels hibernate for up to 7 months every year
- This is the most commonly seen rodent in the park and it is very important part of the food chain because they are prey for ravens, crows, hawks, coyotes, bears and wolves
- Ground Squirrels can be up to 40cm (16in) in height and weigh 450g as adults
- Ground Squirrels are quite social, they may wander up to visitors looking for food
- Pika have short legs, rounded bodies, small rounded ears and no tail
- They are very small, usually 15-23cm (6-9 inches) in length, weighing 120-350g (4.2-12.3oz)
- Pika are native to cold, rocky climates like the Rocky Mountains. Pika are sensitive to warm temperatures, often moving to higher elevations where there are colder temperatures.
- Most Pika live in rock crevices or in burrows and are most active during the daytime, especially in the autumn
- Pika do not hibernate during the winter
- Marmots are members of the squirrel family and are one of the largest rodents in the park
- Marmots can grow to be up to 12kg
- Marmots live in borrows within rock pile, they are very social and often live in communities
- Marmots hibernate during the winter
- The loud, high-pitched whistle of the Marmot can easily be heard while hiking. The local ski hill is named after this animal.
- Porcupine are very shy and are not usually seen unless they are scared out of their hiding place
- Known for its distinctive quills, but a porcupine will only attack (known as “quilling”) if they feel threatened.
- Porcupine are often seen around backcountry campsites as they are drawn in by the salty smell of sweaty hikers and camping equipment.
- Porcupine have been known to chew the rubber off tires and vehicle wiring, so if you are doing any remote hiking, be sure to check your vehicle before leaving.
- Porcupines can be 3.5 to 7kg and be up to 100cm (36in) in length
- Beavers are the largest rodent in Jasper National Park. They can weigh 13 to 27kg and be up to 4 feet in length
- Beaver build their lodges and dams out of logs, mud and stones, these structure are almost indestructible
- Beavers are primarily aquatic, spending most of their time in the water. They have specially adapted webbed feet and waterproof glossy coats
- Beavers are easily recognized by their wide, flat tail that is covered in black scales
- Beavers have very large front teeth which continuously grow, Beavers keep them trimmed by chewing on bark
- Bald Eagles are not actually bald, the name comes from their distinctive white head which looks bald compared to their dark brown wings and body
- The eyes, beak and feet of a Bald Eagle are yellow
- Large bird of prey, often found near large bodies of water, nesting in old growth trees
- Eagles are full grown around the age of 4-5 years. In the wild, a Bald Eagle will live around 20 years, in captivity they have been known to live up to 50 years.
- Female Eagles are on average 25% larger than males. Eagles have a body length of 70 to 102cm (28 to 40 in) with a wingspan of 1.8 to 2.3m (6 to 7.5 feet), females on average weigh 5.6kg (12lbs) and males 4.1kg (9lbs)
Ravens & Crows
- Both are commonly seen black feathered birds
- A Raven’s call is a distinctive croak while a Crow will make more of a “caw” sound
- Ravens stand quite tall, 70cm (27in) while Crows are shorter, 50cm (20in)
- A Raven’s beak is thick, with a hook at the end, a Crow’s beak is thin and straight (no hook)
- In flight, a Raven’s tail feathers will have a wedge-shape while a Crow’s tail is squared
- Smaller than Wolves, but similar in appearance with mixed grey/brown/black coats. Male Coyotes weigh 8-20kg (18-44lbs) and females 7-18kg (15-40lbs)
- Coyotes live in family packs or loose packs of unrelated individuals
- Coyotes are carnivores feeding on deer, small rodents, birds, fish and occasionally fruits and vegetables (Coyotes are known to pull carrots from gardens). Coyotes are also known to go after livestock which causes a lot of problems for farmers, Coyotes are seen as nuisance animals and are regularly hunted by humans
- Coyotes use a den (Wolves do not) to birth and rear their young
- Coyotes are one of the most vocal animals, with over 11 different vocalizations they can mimic wolves, dogs, and even injured animals.
- All wolves in North America are the same species, often referred to as “Grey Wolves” or “Timber Wolves”
- Wolves range and hunt over very large areas, their diet consists of large and medium sized herbivores such as Moose, Elk and Caribou
- Wolves look a lot like Coyotes but they are much larger and have distinctive yellow eyes
- Wolves are pack animals, living and hunting in large groups of 5-11 members
- Male Wolves will weigh on average 40kg (88lbs) with females weighing slightly less. A full grown Wolf will stand about 76cm (2.5feet) tall and be 152-183cm (5-6feet) in length from nose to tail
Bonus Information, because Wolves are really cool:
+ Wolves can run up to 55-70km/hr (34-43mph) and make a single leap of about 5m (16ft)
+The howl of a wolf can be heard over an area of 130km (50 sq.mi), although it is loud it is hard to distinguish from the howl of a domestic dog. The male howl takes on an “Oh-ooo” sound, while the female sounds more like “Ah-whoo”
To find out more about Wolves, we recommend visiting the Northern Lights Wildlife Centre in Golden, BC. Their tours are educational and great for all ages. These dedicated folks are doing amazing work in both the rehabilitation and rebuilding of the wolf population.
- Black bears can be black to brown in colour and have tan coloured muzzles, Black bears do not have a shoulder hump (like Grizzlies). Their curved claws make them very good at climbing trees
- A full grown Black bear will weigh around 170kg (375lbs), they are solitary animals
- Their territory often overlaps with other bears; they can range in an area of up to 200 square km (77 square miles)
- Their diet includes mostly vegetables, roots, grass and berries (they love dandelions), a variety of larvae and insects, and they are quite fond of honey. Less than 1% of their diet includes mammals
- They hibernate during the winter and give birth in the early spring. This is when you can see bear cubs and mamma bears together. The average lifespan is about 18 years
Grizzly Bears (Also known as Brown Bears)
- Grizzly bears are the second largest terrestrial carnivore. The largest is the polar bear.
- Grizzly bears can be identified by their brown colour and large hump between their front shoulders, they have short, rounded ears that look like a teddy-bear
- Adult females can weigh 130-180kg (290-400lbs), males can weigh 180-360kg (400-790lbs)
- Grizzly bears hibernate for 5-7 months each year, emerging in April/May. Grizzly bears live in dens located at high elevations on north-facing slopes
- Grizzly bears are omnivores with their diet consisting of both plants and animals. Their diet includes vegetables, roots, berries, fish and small mammals. It is rare that a Grizzly will hunt a large mammal (deer, elk, caribou or moose). Over 75% of their diet is mammals.
Note: It is ver rare to see a Grizzly in the wild. If you are interested in learning more about these massive bears, check out Kicking Horse Resort in Golden, BC. There is a Grizzly refuge there that offers informative and educational tours.
- Cougars are large members of the cat family and are well equipped to climb trees. These large cats are known by many names including Mountain Lion and Puma.
- There is a small population of Cougars living in Jasper National Park. They tend to be very shy and wary of people but occasionally a cougar will find its way into Jasper town.
- Cougars can weigh between 53-100kg and are about the size of a very large breed dog.
- Cougars are light tan in colour with black tipped tails.
- Cougars rarely interact with humans and it is quite rare to see them. Cougars are very fast moving predators and very dangerous.
- Lynx are medium sized members of the cat family. Male and females are similar in size, weighing 8 to 11kg (18 to 24lbs). Lynx are about the same size as a small to medium sized dog.
- Lynx are light tan and grey in colour with distinct black tipped tuffs on the ends of their ears
- They have distinctly long legs and large feet which help them trek through deep snow. Lynx have very short “stubby” tails. They are good climbers and swimmers.
- Lynx construct rough shelters under fallen trees and natural rock ledges. Lynx are nocturnal and are very rarely seen by visitors
- Lynx feed mainly on snowshoe hares and small mammals.