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Wildlife- focused trip to Alberta summer 08

Wildlife- focused trip to Alberta summer 08

Old Oct 16th, 2008, 12:31 AM
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Wildlife- focused trip to Alberta summer 08

I am just starting to plan a trip for our family of four next year, probably the last week of August. We have two boys who will be 8 and 11 and are very keen on wildlife, particularly birds of prey, owls, moose, beaver, bears, bison etc. To date this interest has been largely academic, but they have specifically requested a wildlife viewing holiday and I figure we should go with it.

I have done some research, and have some good websites for wildlife viewing areas in the Alberta national parks, but am particularly interested in hearing from people who have had experience with guides or tour companies who will offer small group wildlife viewing activities/visits that are suitable for children of this age (ie not involving lengthy or strenuous hiking).

Would also love to hear itinerary recommendations. At this stage we plan to arrive in Vancouver (from New Zealand, our home base), drive across the mountains and then spend 5-6 days in the Jasper/Banff area, flying out of Calgary towards US East Coast on our way back to the Middle East where we currently live.

Thanks in advance!
arabianjedi is offline  
Old Oct 16th, 2008, 06:13 PM
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If you're landing in Vancouver be sure to take a Whale Watching trip- boats leave right from downtown.

Not only Orcas but Porpoises, Seals and Eagles are common sights should be Salmon jumping in late August as well.


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Old Oct 16th, 2008, 09:22 PM
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You'll probably see wildlife such as elk, deer, mountain sheep, marmots, ground squirrels, & many different kinds of birds just by being around and driving through Jasper and Banff National Parks (elk and deer by the side of the highways, or even sometimes in town!!). At higher elevations you may see mountain goats. As for bears (black, and grizzly), while we have seen them occasionally, I prefer not to!!

I have not seen moose in the mountain parks, but have seen them in other locations near forested areas close to wetlands.

All of this wildlife can usually be seen without even trying!!

As for bison and beaver, in my opinion the best place to see them is in Elk Island National Park (both wood bison and plains bison) This wooded area is not in the mountain parks, it's in the center of the province of Alberta just east of the city of Edmonton (a 45 minute drive; Edmonton is a 3.5 hour drive east of Jasper), and covers a region known as aspen parkland (the transition zone between prairie and boreal forest). Depending on how much time you have for your vacation, you may want to consider visiting Elk Island Park.

For more information, check out these websites:



A suggestion - if your sons are interested in dinosaurs, I would strongly recommend the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller (a 1.5 hour drive northeast of Calgary) - it has fabulous displays that will keep even an adult interested and definitely appeals to children:


To take all of this in, the best approach would be a "Circle Tour" in Alberta. On day 1 - start out in Calgary, drive to Drumheller (one whole day at the museum would be ideal), spend the night in Drumheller, drive to Edmonton the next day #2 (about 3 hours driving). While in Edmonton, you could visit Fort Edmonton Park or the Royal Museum of Alberta:



The next day (#3) do a day trip to Elk Island Park (spending all day there; bring a picnic lunch), then overnight back in Edmonton.

On the following day (#4) drive to Jasper National Park.

The very large mountain parks from Jasper town through the Icefields Parkway the Columbia icefields, Lake Louise, and then Banff could keep you busy for many days, but I would say that three days would be a bare minimum (one day in the Jasper area, one day driving the Icefield Parkway, and one day in the Lake Louise/Banff area).

The drive back to Calgary from Banff takes about one hour, so you could plan your itinerary accordingly.

Hope this helps.

Good luck!!
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Old Oct 17th, 2008, 01:16 PM
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I would not say, that August is a good month for wildlife viewing in the canadian rockies.

The animals have a wide range of food choices during the summer and they can be everywhere.

Spring and late summer are better suited for wildlife viewing in the Rocky Mountains, because the animals populate the valley's, as they do not find food on higher elivations.

If your main focus is on bird whatching, then I would recommend to visit some marsh areas in British Columbia. The province has some very wellknown locations for bird whatchers.

The west coast of British Columbia has to offer some very good bear habitat locations. Several guided wildlife viewing are offered from different locations on Vancouver Island. The wildlife viewing in the Rocky Mountains is mainly a self guided activity.

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Old Oct 18th, 2008, 10:41 AM
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Borealis and Tom are both right. While spring & fall may be better times for wildlife viewing when the (larger) animals are concentrated in the valleys (and the fall is also the elk rut), wildlife is plentiful and easily seen in the national parks during the summer too. In addition to the animals borealis listed, coyotes are quite commonly seen along roads. Moose, wolves and caribou are more rarely seen, but maybe if you are lucky....

The wildlife viewing tours here in Jasper are usually small van tours. They can be pricey; the only advantage over driving around yourself (dawn and dusk is best as animals are more active then) is that they know where various species have been recently sighted, and they can tell you information about the animals.

Some "hot spots" for wildlife in Jasper National Park:

Maligne valley - moose, bears, wolves, caribou. Bighorn sheep are often on the road at Medicine Lake, or at the intersection of the Maligne Rd. and hwy 16 during the day.

Miette Hot Springs - there are often large numbers of bighorn sheep in the parking lot during the day.

Cottonwood Slough (on Pyramid Lake Road, the slough is just a few km from town) - beavers, prime birding spot.

Pyramid Lake Rd itself - bears, elk, deer

Owls and birds of prey? Wouldn't count on them... it'd be just dumb luck to get a close-up view of any. I've seen a grey owl and a big horned owl at close quarters, both in winter. I've seen eagles soaring high overhead often, but as to close up views, much rarer. One time I was driving the Icefield Parkway and a bald eagle was perched on a treetop just off and below the road so that it was at my level and I was able to have a very good look at it - with my binoculars, I could see his yellow eyes. Those are three notable encounters for me... I've been living in Jasper for almost 30 years.

The Friends of Jasper National Park operate a book shop in the Jasper Information Centre and have a good variety of books about animals, including lots of kids books. I highly recommend them, as they are a non-profit organization that donates funds to park projects, like trail improvements etc.
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 11:25 PM
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Thanks everyone for your responses, especially the man from Jasper. The dinosaur museum was already on my radar, but thanks for confirmation that it's a great place to go. My preference would be to travel in September, but school will go back first week of that month so we have little choice. I will leave it as late as possible I think.

I will keep checking this thread, if anyone else has anything to contribute.
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Old Oct 20th, 2008, 07:38 AM
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I went to Banff/Jasper on a wildlife focused trip a few years ago. The best spots were the Banff golf course for Elk and the Maligne road in Jasper (all sorts). Both were recommendations I got from wildlife photographers. There are mineral licks at the Mount Kerkeslin viewpoint on the Icefield parkway where you should see mountain goats. It's right on the road and there are signs. Another good spot for bighorns (and goats) on the Yellowhead towards Edmonton. I think it was called Disaster Point. Pikas are found on Whistler's mountain in Jasper.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2008, 05:42 AM
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You've got lots of good information, but will add a few wildlife experiences I can specifically remember. I'm a bird-watcher and have seen bald eagles in a wide variety of locations in the west. Visited Jasper NP around Labour Day several years ago, on arrival from Edmonton just inside the park boundary got a close-up view of an eagle perched in a tree right by the Highway. Elk sightings were frequent and there was a herd seen regularly on one of the roads just outside of town. Cow Moose with Calf on the road to Maligne Lake. Many years ago visited Waterton Lakes National Park and in addition to seeing Moose and Mule Deer while walking the trails, Bighorn Sheep and Deer were regularly seen right in the town, grazing on lawns! There is a protected bison herd in a large drive-through paddock in Waterton Lakes Park (although this isn't exactly "wild"-life plus I've read their future is uncertain at this time). As already mentioned, Elk Island National Park is another place to see bison (and White Pelicans), but is probably too out of the way. A few years ago in early October spent a day in Manning Provincial Park east of Vancouver and saw Black Bear foraging right by the highway (bear sightings tend to be "luck"). Gray Jays and Clarks Nutcrackers will raid your picnic or eat out of your hand. Owls are mostly nocturnal, occasionally one lucks into daytime sightings and perhaps there are areas where they are known to roost (inquire of local naturalists) - otherwise listen for them just after dusk and before dawn.
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