Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Critters of Banff National Park

This is an ongoing series recapping my 2008 trip to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.

Right next to the campground where we stayed was a large clearing named "Moose Meadows."  Twice daily - morning and evening - we'd pass right by.  Every time, Roger insisted on stopping to look for wildlife.  A name like "Moose Meadows" practically guaranteed a moose sighting, right?

See any wildlife?

Our first couple of days in the park, our only wildlife encounters were with dozens of chipmunks.  Roger kept looking for moose and elk, but there were none to be found.  Then, we went into the town of Banff.  Up on a high bank above the main road we spotted a small herd of elk.  We'd been looking in the wrong places.  Instead of roaming the forests of the park, the elk were all hanging out in town!

Our first bear sighting!

The morning we drove the Icefields Parkway, my hubby and I rose early to get a jump on the tourist crowd.  After our usual morning wildlife check at Moose Meadows, we headed down an empty park road.  Noticing a couple of cars pulled over up ahead, Roger slowed down as we passed by.  Turns out a bear was foraging in some bushes right next to the shoulder.  We stopped immediatly.  The bear was on my side of the car, not more than 20 feet away.  Excited, Roger rolled down my window, urging me to "take a picture!"

Okay - there was a bear very close by and my window was open!  I stammered "What are you doing?  There's a b-b-bear out there!"  Quickly slapping on my longest lens, I stuck it out the window and fired off a few quick shots before Mr. Yogi, not wanting to be a paparazzi subject, abruptly ended his breakfast and lumbered into the forest.

Our second bear sighting about an hour later

Wow - a real life bear sighting!  Roger and I were jazzed.  Then, not an hour later, stopped at one of the many overlooks, I spotted another bear.  It was a small black bear, hanging out in a flower field.  Just like the first one, this guy took one look at me and my long camera lens, and hightailed it out of there.

An overly friendly chipmunk

Although those turned out to be the only two bears we'd see, it was still plenty exciting.  Of course, the most up-close and personal wildlife encounter was when Roger was the victim of an ambitious chipmunk.  (If you missed that post, click on the hyperlink)

Animal crossing bridge

Driving the main highway to and from the town of Banff, Roger and I noticed an unusual overpass.  It's upper surface was thickly landscaped with plants and trees.  Upon closer inspection, we realized this was an animal crossing.  A tall chain-link fence paralleled the highway on both sides, keeping animals off the road, and directing them to their special bridge.  Collisions with elk and moose must've been a huge problem for the local government to finance such an elaborate structure.


We never saw any elk in the park until our very last day.  Packed up, and driving towards the south exit, we came upon a huge herd nonchalantly crossing the road.  They had traffic at a standstill.

These elk wanted a bus ride

Lots of folks had gotten out of their vehicles, cameras in hand.  Since these elk had large horns, I opted to get my shots through the car window.

This big elk stopped traffic

The elk even had a tour bus stopped in it's tracks.  I got a kick out of the passengers lined up next to the driver, clicking away with their cameras.  This was one of my favorite animal photos from our trip.

Mama and baby mountain sheep

Continuing on with our journey south, we followed the Kananaskis River into Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.  It was beautiful country, with more tall snow-capped mountains, sparkling clear streams, and lush green forests.

Shaggy mountain sheep

It was here my hubby and I ran into a large herd of mountain sheep.  They were standing next to a campground entrance, nibbling away at the grass, paying no attention to the small cluster of people they were attracting.  There were several baby sheep in the herd, keeping their mothers close by.  With their small, fuzzy ears, and large dark eyes, these little guys stole the show. 

This one stuck his tongue out at me

While clicking away, I inadvertently captured a sheep sticking his tongue out.  (Or maybe it was intentional on the sheep's part?)

What you looking at?

We drove a little further down the highway and came upon some more sheep.  These guys were all males, and had long, curved horns.  Those horns looked like they could do some damage.  I stayed inside the car for all my photos.  Thank goodness for zoom lenses!

Moose-less Meadows

On our last morning in the park, we made one final stop to our now-familiar hangout, Moose Meadows.  Roger really, really hoped this would be the day he'd spot the elusive moose.  But, alas, it was not to be.  The entire week we'd never seen a slight sign of any wildlife in this meadow.  Driving away for the last time, Roger remarked that  this place should be renamed "Moose-LESS Meadows."  And from then on, that's what he and I called it.

This is the last of my Banff National Park posts.  I hope you enjoyed them.  I've got more photos of Glacier National Park (which we passed through on our way home).  If there's another blogging lull, I'll share those.

Sharing with:  Saturday's Critters


  1. I enjoyed these wildlife shots, Linda. Sounds like it was a wonderful trip. You have some nice memories in these photos. Thanks for sharing them. Hope that someday you'll get to see a moose! Every now and then, there are reports of a moose here in Connecticut, but they usually stay farther up north in New England.

  2. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to the Canadian Rockies and I'd go again in a heartbeat if it was possible.

    we found our best elk on the golf course in Banff.

  3. Linda, what a delight to see all these lovely animals. The chipmunk is so cute and looks like a real people lover, too. Love all of this series, thanks so much for sharing.

  4. Some great shots of the local wildlife. And thanks for the link to the chipmunk post - I'd somehow missed that one. In Europe I've also encountered wildlife hanging out at popular lunch-spots.

  5. Those sheep are funny. :) The moose-less trip however was delightful seeing other beautiful animals in the wild. I have enjoyed watching your pictures.

  6. Wonderful critters! You got som really great shots of them. Have a lovely Sunday.

  7. Hi Linda. A wonderful series. I enjoyed the scenery as well as all the animals you found. Many years ago, when it visited the Rockies I was fortunate to see Moose, perhaps you will go back and Roger will see it next time.

  8. Great shots - its a part of the world I really want to visit!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  9. Linda, Banff looks like a great place for wildlife viewing.. I love the bear, elk and the cute sheep.. I remember the post with the chipmunk, that was funny..Awesome series! Thank you so much for linking up and sharing your post.. Have a happy day!

  10. Hi! Nice captures. Your chipmunk and elk photos are very cool. I enjoyed your post very much. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Nice series - I especially like the elk shot

  12. Don't think we ever saw moose out there either, but we've seen lots in Algonquin Park here in Ontario. We did see those Elk along the highway. In the days before the high fence and those neat overpasses they put little red flags where wildlife had been killed. I think we saw nearly 200 driving through the park! So the overpasses have helped, but we haven't been there to see them yet.

  13. What fun! I love the sheep sticking its tongue out. I'm betting it was intentional. More fun that way! Great post!

  14. Wow, so much wildlife so close to you! I have a fear of bears when we're camping, so that first shot made me nervous, I have to admit! Still, very cool.

  15. I have enjoyed traveling with you, this is a park my husband and I have always wanted to see. We saw a moose once in Yellowstone, and it was just like a scene from National Geographic. He was eating vegetation from a stream and when he lifted his head the water just poured off his antlers. Amazing. Your pictures have been beautiful!

  16. I never realised that Elk were so tall! How amazing to be up that close to a bear (and with the window down). You were so lucky to take some fantastic shots of this great place!

  17. Hello Linda,
    Many thanks for your kind visit to my blog :)
    What a great trip it must have been!
    I lived for 3 years on the est coast in North Carolina, and never had the opportunity to go to great US national parks. Quite a regret...
    Although we had Brown bears around, I never saw one!
    So I am happy to admire this one you're showing us!
    Cheers from France :)

  18. Beautiful images Linda, they are all so excellent.

  19. Wonderful post Linda. When I visited in 2009 we were driving down to Vermillion Lakes to watch the sunset and spotted a moose just grazing by the roadside. Not luck enough though to see any bears.

  20. Lovely creatures you've found… I especially love the sheep:-)

  21. This post made me laugh because this is what we do in Algonquin Park. Every time we head out on the road, we are on the lookout for moose and bears. Last summer was a great time for the bears, but a little lean on the moose until the last day. Loved your shots of all the animals. The grizzly bear looked so shaggy, almost as shaggy as the sheep. You got some wonderful shots for not having stepped out of your vehicle ;) Wendy

  22. These are wonderful pictures! Nice to see an animal overpass. I've heard of them — wonder if the animals like them. We need some here in Virginia.

  23. That was an exciting trip seeing all those lovely animals. Your photos are wonderful!!! I think you were very wise staying in your car. In Yellowstone one day we stopped to see a huge bull elk with the biggest rack I had ever seen in the meadow across the road. People were getting out of their cars but hubby and I stayed in ours. That bull elk turned on a dime and decided he wanted to cross the road, running so fast for his great size, turning almost on a dime. You should have seen all those people scatter. As it was he looked as if he was running right towards us and then veered around the back of our car filling up the back window with his body. We lost sunlight for a while, lol. It was exciting but a bit scary.

  24. Loved all of your critter photos! Giggled at the bear photo incident--I'm with Roger and would have my window down for a photo op too:):)
    Blessings, Aimee

  25. Loved this post Linda, what fabulous animals to see :o)

  26. How exciting to see so many wild animals! I guess they are fairly used to tourists for you to be able to get so close.

  27. Linda, these are terrific wildlife pics. I am glad you didn't get out of your car. The wildlife crossing is very cool; whatever it cost the Canadian government it was worth it. Your 1st bear pic is my fave,

  28. many great and fun images here. Love all about it :) Thanks for sharing.

  29. I think the fog made the pictures magical. Great captures, who needs snow? :-)

  30. Yes I so enjoyed this post. From the funny car shot right to the end of Moose-less Meadows. You saw some great critters. I've never seen a bear in the wild and you got to see 2. Loved the Mountain Sheep shots. That was neat to see the crossing for the animals as well.

  31. You got some great shots of animals! :)

  32. LOVED the whole series on Banff! It's high on my list to visit there some day.
    BUT, it's even higher on my list (like later this year perhaps) to visit Glacier.
    So... not that I wish you any reason to have another lull.. :) but I'd love to see those too sometime!


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