Wednesday, August 21
Wildlife of Banff National Park
Wildlife of Banff National Park
Sunshine Meadows is alive!
Encounters with wildlife are the kind of experiences that make our hearts glow! At Sunshine, we’re lucky to be home to several creatures that have developed special tactics to survive the long winter and short summers.
Hibernating throughout the winter, becoming invisible to predators and storing food are some examples.
A trip to Banff Sunshine Meadows will give you the chance to spot some of the most iconic Canadian wildlife in their natural habitat. Here are some of the species you might see during your hike through the meadows.
COLUMBIA GROUND SQUIRREL
Ground Squirrels have a compact hibernating body to survive the long and cold alpine winter. They remain dormant for up to nine months where the soil is deepest, but during the summer they play an important role by farming the landscapes around them.
How do you wonder? Ground squirrels feed on seeds of a variety of plants that they carry, distribute and storage in their burrows. They aerate the soils they excavate and enrich them with their excreta. In time, they make the soil deeper and more productive so that it supports more grasses, more wildflowers and more ground squirrels. How cool is that?
Here’s another hibernating animal of the Rockies! They are the largest member of the squirrel family and, during its winter sleep, their bodies reach freezing temperatures.
Like other ground squirrels, they excavate the soils and hibernate in their burrows. What makes them different? They build natural tunnels beneath large rocks, like a maze underground!
Also known as whistle-pigs because, in the spring and summer, you will hear its high-pitched whistle, which warns other marmots of approaching hikers. Have you heard them?
The red fox is known for its orange-red fur and long bushy tail. Foxes are opportunistic feeders and very skilled hunters. Their lifespan goes from 2-4 years.
Did you know that every spring, between March and May, the female fox will have 1 to 13 kits?
Playful and curious, red foxes are sometimes seen on the top of Wawa. While they may seem kind and friendly, be sure to view them from a reasonable distance.
Chances are you'll bump into some on your visit to Sunshine. Bighorn sheep are social animals. They travel in groups and can often be seen on the Sunshine Access Road and parking lot. There are plenty of them!
Bighorn sheep got a light brown fur with a white rump patch. Although both rams (males) and ewes (females) have horns, males are known for their thick and long curved horns, which could weigh up to 14 kg! Ewes, on the other side, have shorter, thinner horns.
GRIZZLY & BLACK BEARS
You are familiar with these guys already! The black bear and the grizzly bear are the two types of bears that call Banff National Park home.
Seeing them in their natural environment is for many, a bucket list must. If you’re lucky, you could spot one (or more) when you visit Sunshine Meadows. They are sometimes seen on the Sunshine Access Road or parking lot. They also frequent the meadows, usually looking for seeds, grasses, roots, flowers and small animals, including ground squirrels and marmots.
The Sunshine Raven family has called Sunshine home for decades, no matter the season. These birds are as clever as they are large! Scientists believe ravens have an IQ equivalent to chimpanzees and dolphins.
They mate for life and just like humans, ravens have the ability to think ahead and plan for the future.
Keep an eye out for these smart critters and make sure you keep your food out of their reach.
Help us keep our wildlife wild. Remember that Banff National Park is their home. Please, keep a safe distance and never feed them. Interested in learning more? Stop at our Interpretive Center.