Jasper is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including large populations of grizzly and black bears, mountain caribou, elk, moose and wolves. It’s also has many smaller creatures, like hoary marmots, pikas and Columbian ground squirrels, and we have a variety of birds, from bald eagles to the endangered harlequin ducks.
When vacationing in Jasper National Park, your best bets for taking in their wildlife are while driving early morning or late evening along Highway 93A, Highway 16, or Maligne Lake Road.
Jasper National Park has a healthy elk population and if you are staying at The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, your chances of encountering the elk are high. In the spring the elk tend to drop their calves around property to keep them safe from predators. During the summer if you hit the links at The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge golf course, you will more than likely see them enjoying the greenery which keeps our grounds team busy. Highway 16 East or Medicine Lake is another popular place to see the big bull elk during summer months. With the change of season to fall brings rutting season and it’s quite normal to see elk battling on Whistler’s Plateau or along the banks of the Athabasca River which wraps around our resort.
There are also many black bears whose color ranges from black to a cinnamon brown. Black bears are smaller then grizzlies and prefer the valley to higher elevation back country areas. Black bears migrate through Jasper’s valley area in spring after they wake from their den sites in search of lush spring vegetation. Like elk, The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge golf course is another area frequented by bears. Grizzly bears can also be found in Jasper National Park. Unlike the black bears, grizzlies prefer the subalpine forest, alpine tundra or rock and ice.
Much like elk, deer are a common sight for visitors. They are often seen along the roadways feeding during the spring and fall. The largest member of the deer family, moose can be found throughout Jasper National Park. They are often spotted along the Icefields Parkway, Cottonwood slough area and the Maligne Valley.
Bighorn sheep are iconic to the Rocky Mountains. They are light brown in color with a white patch on their rumps. The difference between rams and ewes is that the rams have large curved brown horns and the ewes have short and spiky horns. Bighorn sheep are grazers and although they migrate between low grassy slopes, you can often find them roadside which causes traffic jams of people getting out of their car to catch the perfect picture. Mountain goats are common in Jasper National Park but unlike the Bighorn sheep, they are harder to spot. Generally, you will not find them on the roadsides; instead you need to look high up on rock faces. They are distinguished from bighorns by their all white coats, beards and short black horns.
The best times of year to visit Jasper if you are looking for wildlife are from March to June or in the fall from September to November.