WILDLIFE OF ALBERTA
Few places in the world have as great a diversity of wildlife as Alberta. The province boasts 587 species of wildlife, including 10 species of amphibians, 93 mammals, 411 birds, eight reptiles and 65 fish.
Small mammals: They range in size from the pygmy shrew, which weighs a fraction of an ounce, to the beaver, which can weigh up to 55 pounds.
Ungulates: There are eight species of ungulates or hoofed mammals in the National parks. They can be separated into two distinct families: the deer family, which have antlers that fall off and re-grow each year, and the sheep and goat family, which carry true horns that grow throughout the life of the animal. Visitors to the Park are required to keep a safe distance at all times, especially during the fall mating season and the spring calving season.
Carnivores: There are four families of carnivores: the
weasel, dog, cat, and bear families. Dog family includes wolf and coyote. Cat family includes mountain lion/cougar and lynx. Bears inhabiting Alberta are the black bear and the larger grizzly bear.
Bison Once numerous throughout the North American plains, bison are now limited to isolated pockets. In Alberta, the best places to see them are at Elk Island National Park east of Edmonton, and near Waterton in southern Alberta. It was recently announced, February 2012, that bison would be returning to Banff National Park in a paddock just outside of Banff town site.
Grizzly Bear Once common across the prairies, grizzly bears are now limited to the area surrounding the Rocky Mountains and forested areas in north-central and northwestern Alberta. They are bigger than the black bear with a large shoulder hump and are often light brown in colour. The best place to see grizzly bear in Alberta is in the foothills and mountains in the Kananaskis, Canmore, Jasper and Banff National Park areas.
Black Bear Black bears are smaller than grizzly bears, normally with darker fur and straight rather than curved claws. They are more widespread than grizzly bear, living in forested areas. Please review the Alberta BearSmart guide.
Caribou Known as reindeer in other parts of the world, there are two main sub-species of caribou in Alberta: woodland and mountain. A good place to see mountain caribou is in the Tonquin Valley in Jasper National Park.
Bighorn Sheep The bighorn sheep is Alberta’s provincial mammal. Their name comes from the huge curled horns that the male sheep grow. Their wool is a light brown colour and they have a paler patch on their rump. They can be found throughout the Rocky Mountains, particularly on the Maligne road near Jasper, the Bow Valley Parkway towards Canmore from Calgary and the main road towards Kananaskis village.
Mountain Goat Mountain goats are actually an antelope, not a goat. They inhabit the most inhospitable mountain terrain, which keeps them away from predators. Good places to see mountain goats in Alberta include near Mt. Keresklin in Jasper National Park and along the Icefields Parkway in Banff and Jasper National Parks . Often confused with bighorn sheep, mountain goats are white with short black horns.
Elk – native name Wapiti The wapiti or elk is the second largest member of the deer family after the moose. They can be seen along the full length of the Rocky Mountains, and in the Cypress Hills region in southeastern Alberta.
Birds Alberta is one amazing place to participate in bird watching activities. There are 411 bird species found in Alberta. In fact, Banff National Park alone is home to 260 species.
Great Horned Owl The great horned owl is the provincial bird of Alberta. It is a year-round resident and can be found in forests, open woods and river valleys outside of mountainous regions.
Burrowing Owl Endangered in Alberta, this owl lives in burrows abandoned by other creatures such as badgers, gophers or foxes. Your best chance to see them is in southern Alberta in the summer.
Snow Goose Snow geese pass through Alberta on both spring and fall migrations and stop in shallow wetlands, lakes and fields. One place they can sometimes be seen is in Holden, southeast of Edmonton.
Bald and Golden Eagles An adult bald eagle, with its white and tail is easily identified, but a young or immature bird is often mistaken for a golden eagle. Golden eagles are identified by their chocolate plumage and golden colored neck. Bald eagles can be found in locations where water is plentiful. They enjoy plucking fish out of the water. The golden eagle migration is an annual event occurring in late March to early April and again in October. Golden eagles are best viewed at Mount Lorette in Kananaskis Country.
Wild Turkeys Wild turkeys are not native to Cypress Hills but were introduced and now are a common sight at the Elkwater Lake Lodge and area.