What animals can you see in the Canadian Rocky Mountains??

Grizzly bears, black bears, elk, deer, big horn sheep, mountain goats, moose and coyotes just to name a few! 


Guests often ask - What animals will we see in the Rockies?  Without meaning to sound too mean, the ONLY guarantee of seeing animals is in a zoo!  A lot of animal sightings are just due to plain luck - being at the right place at the right time.  However it helps to know where to look.  For example, big horn sheep are often spotted on the twisting highway cliffs just east of Golden and in the town of Radium by Kootenay National Park.  The Lake Minnewanka Loop near Banff is good for elk and big horn - watch for big horn between Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka while elk are often seen near the Two Jack Lake Campground and at Cascade Ponds (especially in the early morning). 

Everyone wants to see a bear. (Note that we often have them around the cabins in May / June however they have NEVER posed a threat and are more curious than anything.)  They can show up anytime, anywhere however we have had the best luck in the Lake Louise area.  Particularly between the Trans-Canada Highway and the base of the ski hill.  Guests also have a good chance of seeing them on the Lake Louise gondola, particularly in the spring and fall.  There is a very large grizzly bear named Boo in a 20 acre enclosure at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and you can take a chairlift to the enclosure for a visit. 


Some general notes:

It is against the law to feed animals in the National Parks.  Even birds and chipmunks.  It can cause them to lose their fear of humans and the ability to find their own food.


Interactions with what animal sends the most park guests to a doctor or hospital??    More park guests go to the doctor / hospital because of being bit / nipped by a chipmunk or squirrel than any other park animal.  They try to feed them by hand and the animal literally bites the hand that feeds them.  


Animals can be dangerous!  Especially Elk and Deer if it’s mating or calving season.  Do NOT approach wildlife.

Don’t leave any trash behind and always use the park garbage bins.  They have been specially constructed to make them "bear proof". 


Carry bear spray if hiking on less used trails.  Many trails require you to hike in groups of 4 due to the presence of bears.  Check with one of the Information Centres before heading out hiking. 


What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  Except bears.  Bears will kill you!  : )


Big Horn Sheep   

Ø  They are identified by the white patch on rump.  

Ø  Mature males have circled horns while females have short horns with a blunt tip.  

Ø  They are not as nimble on the steep rock slopes as the Mountain Goats.   

Ø  Big Horn weigh 70 to 135 kilograms (150 – 300 lbs).  

Ø  Other than during rutting season, mature males tend to stick together in “bachelor” flocks while females, lambs and young males form separate flocks. 



Black Bear   

Ø  Weighs up to 225kg / 500lbs.  

Ø  While they normally have a shiny black coat, they can have a cinnamon or blonde coat. 

Ø  They are the smallest of the bear family. 

Ø  They live at lower elevations than grizzly bears which is why they are more frequently sighted.  They are mostly vegetarian but will eat anything (and we mean ANYthing).  Buffalo berries account for 90% of their summer diet.  

Ø  They are excellent at climbing trees.

Ø  They hibernate from November to April.



Grizzly Bear  

Ø  The grizzly is distinguished by the large shoulder hump.  

Ø  They are much larger than black bears weighing in at up to 360kg / 800lbs.  

Ø  They are normally dark brown but they can be anything from blonde to nearly black.

Ø  They have excellent smell and, contrary to popular belief, excellent eyesight.

Ø  They are also mostly vegetarian but will eat meat.  

Ø  They are rarely seen as they tend to live at higher elevations.  

Ø  Over short distance can run faster than a horse.  

Ø  They also hibernate in the winter however not for as long as black bears and they are prone to take mid-winter strolls




Ø  Stripes run from tip of nose to end of tail.

Ø  Smaller than a squirrel.

Ø  Hibernates in winter.




Ø  Coyotes are active all year and are often mistaken for a wolf however they are much smaller weighing 10-15kg / 25-35lbs.  

Ø  They have a pointed nose and bushy tail. 

Ø  They mainly feeds on ground squirrels, mice and voles. 




Ø  Also know as Wapiti. 

Ø  They are much larger than deer and are distinguished by the pale rump patch.  

Ø  They tend to stay in lower valleys mostly but move to higher elevation in mid-summer.  

Ø  They weigh in at 275 to 450 kgs (600 – 1,000 pounds). 

Ø  A large bull elk can stand 5ft tall to the shoulder and run at 35mph.  

Ø  The males shed their antlers in late winter or early spring. 

Ø  Rutting season begins in September. 




Ø  They are the largest of the deer family. 

Ø  An adult moose can weigh 360-500kg / 800-1100lbs.  

Ø  Male moose shed their antlers in early winter. 

Ø  They prefer marshy habitat and shallow lakes. 



Mountain Goat

Ø  They have a narrow head and both male and female have black shiny pointy horns.  

Ø  They have a long white coat and double beard on the chin. 

Ø  They are generally seen high up on cliffs.  

Ø  They weigh 45 to 135 kg (100 – 300 lbs). 



Grey Wolf

Ø  Despite the name, they can be white, black, grey or brown.

Ø  They stand 1m tall at the shoulder and travel in packs.  Packs are usually made up of 5 to 7 wolves. 

Ø  They will eat small prey such as rabbits, squirrels and mice however their main diet consists of larger prey like elk, deer, bighornsheep and moose. 

Ø  They weigh 20 to 65 kg (45 – 145 lbs). 

Ø  Since the mid 1980s wolves have made a strong come back in the parks. 

Ø  When running a wolf carries it’s tail straight out rather than down like a coyote.   



White tailed deer

Ø  They weigh 45 to 135 kg (100 – 300 lbs). 

Ø  They look similar to the mule deer however their fur is more reddish. 

Ø  When they run, they stick their tail straight up in the air exposing the white underside of the tail.  Males shed their antlers in late winter or early spring. 


Mule deer

Ø  Slightly larger than their white tailed cousins, the mule deer weighs in at 55 – 180 kgs (125 – 400 lbs) 

Ø  In the spring their coats tend to be reddish brown and in winter they are more grey in colour.  They get their name from their large, mule-like ears. 

Ø  They can also be distinguished from the white tail deer by their tail.  It is small and white with a black tip and it hangs down even when they run.