If you go for an early morning jog through the town of Banff, don’t be too surprised if you see deer wandering down Banff Avenue, and if you drive the Bow Valley Parkway you might spot an elk grazing by the road or a herd of bighorn sheep darting up the bank. It’s always a memorable experience to catch sight of these majestic animals in the wild.
Animals are an integral part of the ecosystem. They are also wild animals, not tame. For these reasons it is important you are aware of how to help protect both yourself and the animals. You should never try to get too close or give food to wildlife. In fact, it is illegal to feed, touch, or even approach wild animals.
Parks Canada uses an ecosystem-based wildlife management approach that aims to preserve the ecology of the park while still providing for visitors. There are a number of measures in place in Banff National Park to keep wildlife and people safe and happy. For example, you will see bear-proof garbage bins, and wildlife fencing alongside the highways which prevent animals from getting on the roads. Banff National Park has also been successful in developing wildlife crossings - underpasses and overpasses - to enable animals to connect their habitats safely and protect motorists.
Disrupting animals’ activities can have serious effects on their wellbeing. During the summer months Banff National Park’s grizzly and black bears have to accumulate enough fat reserves to survive the upcoming winter. Bears are sensitive, and if you get too close or crowd them it may force bears to abandon good foraging spots for inferior ones and expend unnecessary energy. It can also lead to them getting too comfortable around people - putting both the bear and visitors at risk.
The Parks Canada website has information on bears in Banff National Park. It includes safety tips on what to do if you do encounter a bear and how to keep a bear-safe campsite. It also reports recent bear sightings.