|Spring in Jasper is a perfect time to check out wildlife|
Spring is an exciting time to visit Jasper National Park. Many animals are coming out of hibernation and can be found wandering around near the Town of Jasper. SnowSeekers had a chat with Kevin Gedling, Jasper’s visitor experience promotions officer, to learn more about what tourists and locals can expect when they visit as the long-awaited warmer weather begins.
SnowSeekers - What animals are coming out of hibernation at this time of year?
Kevin - A wide range of wildlife come out from various forms of hibernation at this time of the year, ranging from mammals like Columbian Ground Squirrels and Bears to Amphibians like frogs, salamanders, and reptiles like Common Garter Snakes. Specific times and occasions vary from species to species and from different habitate locations, depending on locations such as denning sites etc.
SnowSeekers - When do these animals go back into hibernation?
Kevin - Most species of this sort return to hibernation towards the end of October when freezing tempatures return on a regular and consistent basis. Again, this timing can vary depending on weather and when temperatures drop consistently.
SnowSeekers: What types of animals are in Jasper National Park for tourists to see year round?
Kevin - A good source of information on Jasper National Park wildlife is the Mountain Wildlife Viewing Guide, available for free as a PDF or from any Jasper Information Centre. Jasper National Park includes numerous species of mammals like elk, deer and moose, birds that are most plentiful in the spring and fall, spawning species of fish in several Jasper National Park waterways. Reptiles (like the common garter snake) and amphibians are also present, but hard to spot and quite sensitive to human disturbance.
|Black Bears can be seen in various places throughout Jasper National Park|
SnowSeekers - What should you do if you encounter an animal while out for a hike?
Kevin - First of all, we recommend that people stay at least 30 metres (the length of three buses) away from any large animals. Give them space. Make sure they have a line of travel or an escape route. If the animal approaches you, move away. Avoid direct eye contact as the animal could take this as a sign of aggression.
If you encounter a bear, move away without making any sudden movements or noises. If the bear is aware of your presence, back away slowly, and speak in a calm, firm voice to indicate you are human. If the bear rears on its hind legs and waves its nose around, it is just trying to identify you. Depending on the bear’s behavior, you may want to turn around and head back, or if you must proceed, you might make a wide detour around the bear, or simply wait at a safe distance for it to move on.
Give elk a little more space during calving and rutting season (30 metres). Make yourself appear bigger and act dominant if an elk gets too close. Seek protection behind a large object such as a tree. Move away as you can.
SnowSeekers- What can we do to reduce the chances of surprise animal encounters?
Kevin - Making noise, hiking or biking in large groups is the best wasy to avoid surprising wildlife. Remain alert and always be aware of your surroundings. Avoid areas where wildlife warnings and closures may be present, review recent wildlife activity on Parks Canada websites and social media channels before heading out.
SnowSeekers - Which animals are most common in Jasper National Park?
The most commonly seen big species of wildlife will be deer, bighorn sheep, elk, and occasionally, mountain goats. Black and grizzly bears are seen often but not "commonly" as the other species. Almost every park visitor will encounter a red squirrel at some point, golden mantled ground squirrels and several species of birds like the common raven, Clark's Nnutcracker, grey jay and others of this sort.
|Mountain Goats are often be spotted along the highway|
SnowSeekers - Are there any animals that can only be seen in Jasper National Park?
Kevin - The most endangered species for the moment is southern mountain caribou. Rarely seen, they exist in four main areas of the park and in relatively smaller groups. They are highly susceptible to human pressures. To learn more go to www.pc.gc.ca/caribou.
SnowSeekers - Which types of animals are spotted in town most often?
Kevin - Elk and deer are most commonly seen in the community.
SnowSeekers - What tours showcase Jasper’s wildlife?
Kevin - There are several licensed commercial guides that offer wildlife viewing experiences in Jasper National Park. Typically these tours are based on roadways in the national park and provide narrative interpretation to enhance visitor appreciation and understanding of the wildlife and habitats they are seeing. Two good websites include:
www.jasper.travel and www.interpretiveguides.org.
SnowSeekers – Any other additional information for visitors coming to the park?
Kevin - Jasper National Park has two information centres. One is in the Town of Jasper and one at the Columbia Icefields. Visitors can find the most up-to-date wildlife information, in addition to maps, guides, trail reports and suggested trails from park staff. Visitors can report problems to the park information centres. In the event of an urgent problem, call 911.
If you come across a large, dead animal it may mean a recent predator kill. Leave the area immediately. Elk have a distinct smell, which is often noticeable since they are generally found in groups. This smell can be a good heads-up that they are nearby. In the springtime, elk calves can “mew” indicating their presence, and in the fall, male elk bugles can be heard from a long distance. Fresh scat on the trail is a good indication of wildlife present. Fresh diggings alongside the trail often indicate recent grizzly use. During a bear encounter, woofing, growling or jaw snapping indicates defensive behavior.
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