Wildlife of the Canadian Rockies

Here are a few of the animals you may spot

(but hopefully not run into too closely) on your trip


The cougar is one of the most dangerous animals to run across while hiking. Once you’ve seen them they have probably already been stalking you for quite some time. The usually don’t like to run into people, so traveling in a group and talking loudly will most likely keep them away. If your group runs out of things to talk about (or if you become short of breath) remember to call out every once in a while to make sure the wildlife know you are in the area. If you do run into a cougar, make sure you fight back and show the cougar that you won’t be an easy meal.


The pika is a small, hamster-like creature that is also called a rock rabbit. Because of changing global climatic conditions pika populations are being pushed up to higher and higher altitudes along the mountain slopes, causing them to face extinction. Due to this, the pika is begin considered for endangered status. For now they are still fairly easy to spot, as they are mostly active during the day. They produce a characteristic high pitched squeak, so you’ll know if they’re around. One of the best places to find them in Yoho is at Takakkaw Falls on the pathway to the falls itself.

Grizzly Bear

Like the cougar, the grizzly bear is one of the most dangerous animals you can come across while hiking in the Mountain Parks. The good and bad news is that you probably won’t run across one, as they are endangered. It is estimated that there are only approximately 700 grizzly bears left in this region (Parks Canada, 2008). If by chance you do happen to run into a grizzly bear, it is important that you remember a few key points: 1) If you see one on the path DO NOT RUN. 2) Instead, avoid eye contact and back away slowly while talking in a calming voice. 3) Don’t remove your backpack. Most people do this because they fear that it will slow them down if they do need to run, but it is important to keep you backpack on as it will help to protect your back and neck if you do end up getting attacked. The easiest way to deal with a bear attack is to avoid one, so remember to use your bear calls. If you don’t manage to keep the bears away, carry a bear spray that you know how to use.


It is quite rare to spot an elk while out hiking. Mostly, this is because because elk are nocturnal, but also, like most prey species, they are good at avoiding conflict and are not easy to sneak up on. While both beautiful and graceful, if you happen to be lucky enough to spot one you should NEVER APPROACH THE WILDLIFE as they do have means of protecting themselves and human contact puts animals at risk of habituation, putting them in danger.


Mountain goats are the true rock climbing experts of the Canadian Rockies. Mountain goats feed on alpine grasses and flowers and almost any tree or shrub, and live on the rocky mountain slopes as a way to avoid predators that are less welll equiped for mountain climbing. Unlike most other animals, mountain goats are actually easier to spot during the winter than the summer seasons, as they are forced to head further down the mountain slopes in seach of uncovered grasses. If you are hoping to get a look a one of these animals, your best chance is to head west of Field on Highway 1 for approximately 40 minutes towards the town of Golden, BC. The exposed rock faces in this area come right up to the road, and mountain goats are attracted to the view points where vehicles stop because of the food that gets left behind. Just be careful when driving, as the road is very twisting in this area and mountain goats often cross the highway to get to the view points.


Black Bears tend to be much less dangerous than the grizzly. However, they will fight to kill when protecting their young or a valuable food resource or patch. While this little guy is very cute, a cub’s mother tends to never stray very far away from her young. These bears are the type of predator that a hiker is most likely to come across, so it is important to remember your bear calls in order to never frighten a bear that doesn’t know you are around. The best place to spot a bear in the Rockies is actually along train tracks, as they are attracted to the grain that has fallen off the trains carrying wheat from the prairie provinces. Remember that it is dangerous to pull over on the side of the highway unexpectedly when you spot any form of wildlife. Stopping at a bear trap (the term for when a large number of vehicles are pulled over on the side of the road to take pictures of the wildlife) not only puts you at risk of getting a traffic ticket, but there have been many accidents that have been caused by people running across the highway to see the animal and getting hit by a car.


The moose is the largest ungulate (hoofed animal) that lives in the Canadian Rockies. Due to their size they are typically easy to spot. With that being said, they tend to be very aggressive creatures and pose just as much risk as any predator due to their large antlers and their tendency to charge at anything they see as a threat. Speed limits in the Mountain Parks are reduced for the protection of all wildlife, however in a car accident with a moose the passengers are probably at more risk of injury than the moose.

Photos from Wikipedia

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