Curious about what wildlife in Jasper National Park you can expect to see? Don’t worry; we have you covered!
As seasoned travelers and avid nature photographers, we’ve ventured into countless national parks, capturing the awe-inspiring beauty of our planet’s diverse inhabitants.
Our recent visit to Jasper was nothing short of magical, filled with unforgettable encounters and stunning photo opportunities (Banff was picture-perfect as well).
Animals within Jasper National Park are varied and abundant. Fifty-three species of mammals call the park home, from large bull moose and grizzlies to the smallest rodents. There are also hundreds of bird species that live in the park or visit seasonally.
We will go through the common species you will hopefully see and those you probably won’t to help you know what to look for on your next visit.
Wildlife In Jasper National Park & Best Places To See Them
Let’s go through some of the most popular wildlife in Jasper and where you can often spot them.
Grizzly Bears & Black Bears
Jasper National Park, located in the Canadian Rockies in Alberta Province, has both grizzly and black bears. The park has approximately 100 of each type, give or take, based on various circumstances.
So how can you tell the difference if you spot one in the park?
Well, it isn’t based on color, as you might think. The black bear’s name is deceiving because it can be in various shades, including brown or even white.
The actual difference is that grizzly bears have a distinct hump of muscle right at their shoulder blades behind the head.
The best seasons to visit for bear activity are spring and fall. The bears are fattening up after just coming out of or are preparing to head back into hibernation.
Look along the roadsides while driving Pyramid Lake Road or Maligne Lake Road.
Elk (aka Wapiti)
Elk will be the wildlife that you will have to shut your eyes to miss seeing during a visit. They are everywhere, and you can’t miss them. We would be shocked if you came away without seeing any.
More than 1000 individuals within the park boundary can be seen on almost every stretch of road.
They particularly like the roadways along Hwy 16 and can even be found within the town itself on occasion.
📎 Tip: Visiting Jasper in the fall allows you to be there for the rutting season. This time of year is when the bulls fight for their harems of females. It is the best time of year to hear bugling and to see the elk fighting.
Coyotes are quite a common sight in the park, just like pretty much anywhere in North America. In fact, we spotted a coyote heading into a storm drain in our suburban neighborhood in Kansas City once.
But seeing them in a natural environment is much more appealing, don’t you agree?
These small canines are related to wolves. But because they do not instinctively fear humans the way wolves do, they are more likely to be seen than their larger counterparts.
You might spot a coyote anywhere in the park, including downtown. We found this one along the banks of the Athabasca River right next to Hwy 16.
Bighorn sheep are identified by their characteristic horns. The brown coat with a lighter rump area is reminiscent of elk, but the species are not related.
The males (called rams) have the large curved horns they are named for. The females (called ewes) have much shorter, slightly curved horns that do not bend down and around.
Similar to bears, where they feed will depend on the season. Bighorn sheep prefer cooler weather, so they spend the warmer summers high in the alpine area.
The winters are spent feeding lower in the valley. Therefore, winter is the best time to see these guys as they descend from high altitudes.
We saw them in the fall along the roadways, but they were still quite high.
Look along the main Hwy 16 east of Jasper or on Miette Road. Another place to try is along the Icefields Parkway drive, as they will come onto the road to lick salt.
We typically associate Canada with moose, maple syrup, and ice hockey. And so we naturally expected an abundance of moose within the park.
Turns out there are only about 150 moose in Jasper, and they are harder to spot than you might think.
In fact, we ran into several people at the tail end of their trip who hadn’t seen a single moose. But we saw them several times during ours, including this big bull moose. So we know they are there.
If you want to find moose, consider driving Maligne Lake Road or hiking the Moose Lake Loop.
White-Tailed Deer & Mule Deer
Both white-tailed deer and mule deer can be found in Jasper National Park.
Mule deer have rather large ears and a black-tipped tail. White-tailed deer have smaller ears, and their tail is generally solid brown on the exterior and white on the interior.
Deer are abundant, and we think you will have no problem seeing one (if not one every day) during your trip. Mule deer are more common to the terrain and area and will be the ones you will most likely spot.
There is no specific area to look for mule deer, as they are common throughout Jasper. White-tailed will be a bit harder to find. We suggest trying Snaring Road as a starting place.
Marmot & Pika
Marmots and Pika are fond of higher altitudes. So if you plan on hiking up or visiting higher elevations, there is a good chance you may see one of these two species.
Marmots are large rodents. Aptly named a “whistle pig,” they will sound a high-pitched whistle noise as an alarm call to the others. Hoary marmots, the species found in Jasper, can weigh up to 25 lbs.
Marmots hibernate just like bears. So do not anticipate seeing them during the winter.
Pika are not actually rodents, even though they remind us most of a gerbil.
Their small stature makes these adorable little things harder to spot than marmots. They come in at only about 6 inches long and weigh only 1/2 lb.
We honestly wouldn’t have noticed the pikas if they hadn’t been alarming. Their alarm call reminds us most of a bird call (similar to a crow caw), though another website called it similar to a “bleat of a lamb.” It is a single high-pitched call.
If you hike any of the alpine trails above the tree line or ride the Jasper Gondola up Whistler Mountain, be on the lookout for either of these species.
There are tons of birds within the park. From some of the most common ones you can see throughout North America to more specialized ones.
In particular, we want to point out the larger birds of prey as they will be a bit easier to spot. Maybe? At least, based on their size, they will be.
You can find both bald eagles and golden eagles in the park.
There are five types of owls to find, including the Great Gray Owl, which we desperately want to see someday.
And Jasper has their fair share of hawks as well.
If you are a birder, then we highly suggest a visit. You certainly won’t be disappointed with the variety you will see.
Birds can be found anywhere within the park, but bald eagles, in particular, have been found nesting at Medicine Lake.
And we spotted multiple juveniles on Hwy 16 on the banks of the Athabasca River.
Other Jasper Animals You Might Spot
As we mentioned, 53 species of mammals are within the park, and we only discussed a handful above.
Squirrels, chipmunks, and hares are a common sight. Skunks, porcupines, mountain goats, and beavers all call Jasper home. Minks, otters, and martens can also sometimes be found.
We had a magnificent sighting of a marten, who was super curious about us and was so adorable we wanted to scoop it up and give it lots of pets.
📎 Tip: Most people want to see large mammals like elk and bears. But you never know what you might spot of the small stuff if you drive slowly and be on the lookout for movement. This is how we found the marten.
Rare Jasper WIldlife You Most Likely Won’t Spot
There is wildlife that we all wish we could see, but the chances of spotting them are unlikely. So if you see one of these species, you should be really excited.
Wolves are the first ones that come to mind.
Wolves move often and cover a lot of ground. Add onto that they are quite shy and wary of humans, and you have a species that will more likely than not remain hidden.
We were told the best chance to see them was along Snaring Road. You can also try Maligne Lake Road or Hwy 16, west of Jasper.
We never saw the wolves ourselves.
But Snaring Rd was a quiet, beautiful drive, and is where we spent our incredible time with the marten. We didn’t see another car during the hour we had with it.
While a couple of herds can be found in the park, there are not enough females to grow the population.
Without intervention, the caribou will most likely die out in the area.
If you happen to find them, it will be sheer luck. You will have your best chance when they descend the mountains for food in winter.
Cougars & Lynx
Lastly, let’s talk about the cats.
Jasper National Park has both Cougars and Lynx.
Solitary and mainly nocturnal, your chances are very slim of seeing either. Most likely, they will see you, and you still won’t see them.
Safety Tips For Jasper National Park Animals
There are “rules” you should follow when watching wildlife in Jasper (and anywhere where wildlife can be found). They are for your safety and the safety of the animal.
Keep Your Distance
Like most national parks, wildlife viewing in Jasper National Park has distance guidelines to keep you and the wildlife safe during encounters.
You must stay about 100 ft away for elk and moose. For bears and wolves, that distance is about 325 ft.
For those who struggle to recognize distances, 325 ft is a bit more than the length of an American football field. So it is pretty far away.
Tourists in national parks are injured by wildlife each year, so don’t take these distances lightly. Animals can be aggressive at any time, but more so during mating season.
We found the gentleman below taking a photo way too close.
You should never be this close. But during the rutting season, elk, in particular, are known to be extremely aggressive. He was lucky that this elk was busy following a female at the time, and so had other things on his mind.
And he wasn’t the only one behaving badly. We saw another tourist chased to her car on the same visit by an elk she had tried to walk up to.
These are not pets. They don’t take kindly to you intruding on their space. Respect them and enjoy them at a distance.
Do Not Feed Wildlife
Feeding wildlife in Jasper National Park can be a death sentence to the animal.
They learn that humans can be a food source and become destructive and dangerous in their pursuit of human food.
We always hear about bears in this type of situation. But it applies to small animals as well. Chipmunks are notorious for being cute and getting fed. Don’t do it. By enforcing the behavior, the chipmunk now relies on handouts.
With larger animals, when the animal starts to become a danger to humans, it is often removed from the situation…permanently.
So when you are in the park, do not feed animals directly. Don’t litter. And don’t leave food outside unattended under any circumstance.
If you are eating a packed lunch, that is one thing. Any other time it needs to be locked up in your car or, if you are camping, stored appropriately according to park rules.
Pullover Safely Along Main Roads
Seeing wildlife, particularly elk, along the main highway that runs through Jasper is common. But it is important to be safe if you want to stop.
Please don’t stop right in the middle of the driving lane. It blocks traffic and can cause accidents. Pull over to the shoulder and use your hazards so people can see you.
Try not to spend too much time parked along the roadway.
It is time to move on once you have some good photos. This allows someone else to stop and see without causing a traffic jam.
We also can’t stress enough to follow the speed limit signs.
When you are in a national park with abundant wildlife like Jasper, you will obviously find animals crossing the road. Keep them safe by following speeds and keeping a close eye on roadsides as you drive so you know if an animal up ahead might be getting ready to cross.
Be Responsible For Yourself
Finding out what will keep you safe and taking responsibility for yourself is one of the best things you can do in a national park. Ask the rangers for tips upon your arrival.
Common tips we know are:
- when hiking, travel in a group if possible
- make noise when you are walking in the wilderness so animals know you are in the area
- carry bear spray with you…and know how to use it!
- be familiar with what to do should you have a run-in with an animal
- always be aware of your surroundings; look and listen as you are hiking
If you take on the responsibility for yourself, you also naturally protect the wildlife around you.
Jasper Wildlife Tours
We found Jasper to be easily drivable on our own. So you certainly don’t have to do a tour.
But there are benefits of a wildlife tour with an expert on Jasper as they have inside information about where animals have been recently spotted.
And you will likely have a better chance of seeing certain animals on a guided tour.
We recommend two wildlife Jasper tours, depending on whether you want to take a boat cruise as part of the excursion.
The first is a 3-hour tour that has you up at dawn to discover what wildlife awaits. The guide’s expertise will take you to specific areas based on the season or where there has been recent activity for the best chance to find wildlife.
Our second recommendation is a 5.5-hour tour that has you looking for awesome wildlife in the Maligne Valley area. Take a cruise on the lake as part of the excursion.
Camera Gear For Jasper National Park Wildlife
Watching wildlife often goes hand in hand with wanting to photograph them. This is the gear we highly recommend.
You are going to want a good quality camera for wildlife.
It is important that you find one that has a decent range of ISO options, as you don’t know what kind of lighting you might have while you are out. And upping the ISO is a great way to get the shutter speed you need for moving subjects in low light.
You also need to check how many frames per second your camera can shoot.
In wildlife photography, you want to use continuous shooting and have a high frame-per-second rate in case action unfolds.
We currently have a Canon 5D, which has worked well for almost all situations. It has seven frames per second rate.
But if you are serious about wildlife photography, the Canon 1D will get you the fastest shooting ability with up to 20 frames per second.
You don’t want to be out photographing wildlife in Jasper to have your battery run out, and you didn’t bring an extra. Or worse yet, during the action, your card is full.
ALWAYS bring extra fully-charged batteries and empty cards.
And we can say from experience to keep an eye on how many more images you can take before your card is full. Don’t be us and be amidst an incredible encounter and have your camera blink “card full.”
A long telephoto is going to be your best friend for wildlife. Remember when we said earlier that you should keep your distance from wildlife? That means you need a longer lens to still get “close” to the subject.
We recommend the Canon 100-400 mm (or even the 500 mm) for wildlife. Canon will be pricey, so a good substitute would also be a Sigma 150-600 mm.
While we use a long telephoto for 95% of our wildlife shots, there is a place for a medium telephoto.
Sometimes you will get lucky, and the animal will be close enough to use a medium lens. We found that this is true when we are in the car and happen upon wildlife near the roadway.
A medium telephoto can also be excellent for wildlife within a landscape shot. When you aren’t looking for a close-up of the animal but instead want to show it in its natural environment.
We use and recommend the Canon 24-70 mm for this.
Tripod Or Bean Bag
Long telephoto lenses are heavy to handhold. This can cause photo blurriness because you can’t keep it steady enough for the shot.
Using a tripod eliminates the shaky arms and gives you a solid platform for the heavy lens to rest upon. A tripod will be used if you are outside of the car.
If you are INSIDE the car, invest in a bean bag support. Look for one that is U-shaped so you can slip it over the side of your car when the window is down.
We always use one while photographing from the car, and they provide an excellent resting place for a long lens. But make sure you pick an appropriately sized one based on your lens, as they have different sizes.
If you go the bean bag route, our tip is to travel with your bean bag empty and hit the grocery store when you arrive. We put rice inside ours, but others use dry beans, etc.
Where To Stay By Jasper National Park
The park boasts hotels in the park and just outside its boundaries. Here are our recommendations.
Luxury 💵 💵 💵 – Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
- Elegantly appointed rooms and suites, fine dining, and top-notch amenities for a truly pampering experience
- Nestled along the shores of Beauvert Lake, the lodge boasts breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and pristine wilderness
- Range of on-site recreational options, including golf, spa facilities, and 8 different restaurants from gourmet to grab-and-go
Mid-Range 💵 💵 – Jasper East Cabins
- Cozy cabins offer an authentic mountain retreat experience, perfect for immersing yourself in nature
- Peaceful setting away from the hustle and bustle, ideal for relaxation and rejuvenation
- Strategically located close to several hiking trails, lakes, and scenic drives, as well as easy access to the national park
Budget 💵 – Jasper Gates Resort
- Boasting a playground, sports courts, and spacious grounds, the resort is perfect for families seeking a fun-filled vacation
- Situated near the park’s east entrance, Jasper Gates Resort is a convenient base for exploring both Jasper National Park and the surrounding attractions
- Variety of budget-friendly options, including cabins and hotel-style rooms
FAQs For Jasper Wildlife
Have questions? These are some of the most common ones.
Will I See Wildlife In Jasper?
Absolutely! Jasper National Park is teeming with wildlife. You’ll likely spot elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and even bears. While sightings aren’t guaranteed, with patience and a keen eye, you’ll be treated to unforgettable encounters with the park’s diverse inhabitants. Respect the animals and maintain a safe distance for the best experience.
Are There Polar Bears In Jasper?
No, there are no polar bears in Jasper National Park. Polar bears are typically found in the Arctic regions, far north of Jasper. However, while exploring the park, you can encounter other bear species, such as black bears and grizzly bears. Be sure to follow safety guidelines and maintain a respectful distance from these majestic creatures.
Is Banff Or Jasper Better For Wildlife?
Both Banff and Jasper National Parks offer incredible opportunities for wildlife sightings. While Banff is more popular and accessible, Jasper is larger and less crowded, providing a more serene experience for observing wildlife. Both parks are home to various animals, so choosing between them depends on your preferences and travel itinerary. We had better luck with wildlife in Jasper.
Are There Snakes In Jasper National Park?
Yes, there are snakes in Jasper National Park, but sightings are relatively rare. The most common snake species you might encounter is the harmless garter snake, typically found in grassy and marshy areas. Although they are present in the park, snakes are generally elusive and shy, so chances of encountering them are slim.
Should I Carry Bear Spray In Jasper?
Carrying bear spray in Jasper National Park is a wise precaution, especially when venturing into the backcountry or remote trails. Both black bears and grizzly bears inhabit the area, and bear spray can be an effective deterrent in case of an unexpected encounter. Remember to learn how to use it properly and always follow park guidelines for bear safety.
To Finish – Incredible Wildlife In Jasper and Where To See Them
We had amazing experiences seeing wildlife in Jasper.
You can catch a glimpse of a variety of species during your visit. There are never guarantees of what you will see, of course, but we think you will absolutely come away happy with your time there.
And while we have suggested where you can begin your “hunt” to find specific animals, the rangers are always happy to assist.
They will have more information about what has been recently spotted and where to help you best find the animal you wish to see.
So plan your wildlife trip to Jasper today!