From mountain goats to moose: Spotting wildlife in Banff and Jasper National Parks

mountain goat near glacier walk jasper

Plenty of tour companies in and around Banff and Jasper offer wildlife spotting tours. In fact, in moose and bear seasons, they’re one of the biggest draws in the area. But here’s the thing: you can easily create your own wildlife tour for the price of renting a car.

Boyfriend Perspective: And the cost of fuel. Can’t do anything without fuel. You could rent a car and not pay for fuel, might even get lucky if a bird lands on your “not going anywhere” car.

Want proof? Brewster.ca, which ran our Maligne Lake cruise, advises that all guests driving through Jasper allow plenty of extra time for their trip due to “animal jams.” That is, when wild animals are either blocking traffic or are otherwise near the road and causing drivers to stop – whether because they don’t want to hit a moose, or because they want an up-close picture of one.

While many of the big highways running through and abutting Banff National Park have fences and animal bridges to prevent these kinds of encounters, there are no such precautions throughout Jasper NP, which means you never know what or who you might see hoofing it with the rest of traffic.

 

Mountain goats

Spotted: also right next to the Glacier Walk platform.

Moose are cool. Bighorn sheep are cool. Mountain goats are badass. They’re the fitness models of the goat world! This guy – who had company later – was breathing really heavily as he hopped up over the edge of the cliff next to the Glacier Walk. What you don’t really realize until you see them in person is that they’re not very tall, but they are JACKED. The same way a pit bull looks like solid muscle, so do these guys.

And they were very chill, too. Just walking along the barrier, noshing on little plants, watching the cars. Apparently, we’re more normal for them than they are for us!

Boyfriend Perspective: Seriously, we were driving along the highway, which is not much more than a few feet from edge of a cliff, and this goat just kinda bounces his way up the rock face on the shoulder. His buddy just a couple minutes later.

 

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Bighorn sheep

Spotted: literally right next to the Glacier Walk platform.

Hanging out just down from the mountain goats was this cool ewe. She was very calm, just sort of standing around and taking it all in.

You’ll notice that we got one good photo of this pretty gal. One. Know why? Because highways are busy and she was standing in the shoulder, so we couldn’t stop. So, Luke paid the passenger tax, hung out the window, and tried to get a steady shot in dusky light while I continued driving so the work van behind us wouldn’t flip out.

Hence, one pretty awesome photo.

Cool fact: we were unsure if this was a female or a young male sheep. Know how you can tell the difference? A) equipment down below (duh). B) Girl horns are thinner and not so curvy. Young boy horns? Thicker at the base, and they begin to curve pretty steeply. Who knew, right? ¯_(ツ)_/¯

 

Moose

Spotted: just to the side of the two-lane road to Maligne Lake

On our way back from Maligne Lake, we noticed an absolute gaggle of cars stopped on both sides of the road. So, naturally, we stopped, too. And it was all for good reason – this sweet cow and her adolescent calf (who was incredibly shy) were just inside the tree line, browsing and noshing.

Here’s the thing, though. Obviously, we stayed back. Moose don’t have amazing eyesight, and if a mama moose can’t figure out what’s approaching her and her kid, she’s more likely to flip out than run away. Now, plenty of the tourists we were stopped with were crackling through the brush, pursuing her. Don’t be those tourists, guys. Please. PLEASE.

 

Greyjays

Spotted: all over the Banff National Park area

Not quite as aggro as bluejays, but still pretty assertive. The ones we came across were very accustomed to people, and so very willing to get close up and personal.

 

Red squirrels

Spotted: pretty much everywhere.

Okay, so just about everyone in North America has squirrels – totally get it. But ginger alarm squirrels? That’s a hard no. Our gray squirrels in Virginia are squeaky and fat, but these guys – they take that whole red-headed temper thing to a new level.

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We honestly thought there was a bird making crazy noises near Mirror Lake. Then we turned around and saw the little dude on the right, mouth WIDE open, emitting a sound worthy of an alarm system. We also got to share part of our lunch with the red squirrel on the left at Maligne Lake – apparently, they know that the cafeteria likes to keep the doors open on nice days, which makes perfect access for a squirrel.

Boyfriend Perspective: It is surreal to hear a particular sound and see that what it is coming from is not even in the same genus that you think it should be. Like… what?

 

Chipmunks

Spotted: also pretty much everywhere.

This is another common one, totally get it. But it’s like the squirrels and chipmunks did a color swap between the East Coast and the Western side of the continent. Our chipmunks are Chip’n’Dale style – dark ginger with stripes. No joke, I’m pretty sure I had a Siberian Dwarf hamster that looked like these little dudes!!

Thing is, these guys definitely exhibit a different personality than our chipmunks, though. Very, very ballsy, these little ones are!

Boyfriend Perspective: Mirror Lake is a great place to stop for a break on your up to the Tea House. It also seems the rodents have found it’s a great spot for lunch, featuring trail mix and granola bars – I think we saw one or two that looked like a child’s foam football with a tail!

 

Clark’s Nutcrackers

We only saw these feathery folk in the Lake Louise area, but I’m sure they’re all over the place, too. The ability to fly kind of makes that possible, after all. They were much shyer than the other small creatures we came across – I mean, I had to zoom in to my lens’s max just to get a decent shot.

 

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Mountain goats to Moose: Spotting wildlife in Banff and Jasper National Parks

2 Replies to “From mountain goats to moose: Spotting wildlife in Banff and Jasper National Parks”

  1. So cool to be able to go on your own like this – I think you made the right choice, it has much more charm than following a tour and queuing to see animals. I can see you were very lucky with all the spottings! It’s sad people had to run after the moose… they just can’t behave (but it doesn’t surprise me)

  2. This is very interesting – and so much fun at the same time: I love the mountain goat (you obviously do too, since you’ve made it the iconic animal of this post 😉 ) and of course the cute little chipmunk. Especially entertaining is the boy friend perspective – what an original idea! Happy travels, guys!

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