By Julie Baxter | May 2017 | 5 minute read
Alberta’s landscapes are perfect for bears, bison, beavers, elk, moose and eagles. Wise up to its opportunities for your clients to go wild.
Banff: Banff & Lake Louise have awesome scenery and a great mountain resort vibe with easy access to pristine wilderness. Bears, are most likely to be spotted there from June to September/October. The Lake Louise Gondola is among top spotting sites for wild grizzly bears while Banff National Park is home to around 40 black bears, plus moose and buffalo. A herd of 16 plains bison have been reintroduced to the park this year and are now breeding successfully. There were once 30 million bison in Canada and initiatives to revive the population were supported by Alberta’s Idigenous tribes as both a stunning wildlife addition to the landscape and as a symbol of Indigenous culture. Other ‘must do’ attractions while in the town include the Banff Hot Springs, the Banff Gondola, walking to Bow Falls and the scenic splendour of Vermillion Lake.
Jasper: Jasper positions itself as the perfect base for adventure and offers unpretentious accommodation within an intimate, friendly community. Originally a railway town, it now finds itself in the midst of some of the most gorgeous protected wilderness in the world. Jasper National Park is a top spot for bears and throws in the added chance of seeing beavers, caribou and elk too. Tall and powerful, the caribou and elk have impressive antlers which they grow each summer and shed in autumn. Best time to see them is early in the morning or late in the evening. Beyond the wildlife, visitors should check out the Jasper Skytram for amazing views, take to the water for rafting, explore the stunning landscapes on bikes or with hikes, and have cameras at the ready on a visit to Maligne Lake.
Cypress Hills: Less than 10 minutes off the Trans Canada Highway, the Cypress Hills are a hidden gem in southeast Alberta - 600 metres above the Prairies. Its Provincial Park is a great spot for mountain bikers, hikers, watersports and horse riding. The elevated landscapes also make great habitats for wildlife, especially birdwatchers. Alberta is home to more than 300 species of birds, including bald and golden eagles. An annual eagle migration sees thousands of eagles migrate over southern Alberta. The first golden eagles go north in late-February with the peak migration mid-March to the end of April. They then begin to return south in late August, peaking from mid-September until early-November. Other key viewing sites are in Kananaskis and Canmore above the Fisher Range. Cypress Hills is also a dark sky preserve so great for stargazers.
Cochrane: Set in the heart of Alberta cattle country and the Cowboy Trail, Cochrane is a relaxed resort town in a beautiful natural setting. Only 20 minutes from Calgary and less than an hour from Banff, it offers rodeo and ranching activities, hiking and quaint shops. It is also home to the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary set in 160 acres, where visitors can get to know a pack of five resident wolfdogs. On experiential tours visitors observe some of the 30 wolf-dogs who live here first hand. Joining an interactive tour and getting up close to the animals for a better understanding of how these elusive animals live in the wild. The sanctuary is open year round.
Elk Island: Elk Island National Park is home to around 600 elk and with no large predators this herd is thriving, increasing at an average rate of 20% annually. The province is also home to over 100,000 moose. Bison have had a long association with Alberta and play an important part in First Nation heritage. Today, Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Alberta has the largest population of bison; while Elk Island National Park, just under 50km from Edmonton’s city centre, has a large population too and in fact has the second largest concentration of hooved animals per kilometre in the world, after the Serengeti. There are both wood bison and plains bison in the park and flight-seeing is a great option to view the huge herds as they make an impressive sight from above.
Waterton: Waterton Lakes National Park is said to hold more wildlife diversity (per sq km) than any other park in Canada and is a designated UN Biosphere Reserve . It is the meeting point of several ecosystems as the mountains meet the prairies and sightings of white-tailed deer, big horn sheep, or black bear are likely and it is a top spot for birdwatching. A wildlife weekend festival is held each September (22-24,2017). Activities here include hiking and golf, lake cruises and photography. Waterton Lake is a wind surfer’s paradise and a fisherman’s dream and Cameron Falls is a scenic highlight. There are numerous adventure companies offering opportunities to get involved.