Whoever thinks zoos are great places to see animals is clearly missing out on the core essence of seeing wild animals. A zoo is a wrong place to educate people about wild animals.
Seven days in the Canadian Rockies brought me many close encounters with wild animals. Here is what we saw, and if you are planning a trip to the Rockies, I am including some tips at the bottom of this post so you can maximize your chance to see them as well.
Despite the fact that there are lots of Grizzly bears in the Canadian Rockies, encountering one is not a common occurrence. Grizzly bears are often very shy animals and they live at high altitudes. They have the signature hump on their back that identifies them from other types of bears. We were lucky enough to see one. Because we went in late May, they have only been awakened from winter hibernation not long ago, so they looked rather skinny and were hungry for food.
Black bears are much more common than Grizzlies. During our week long trip in the Rockies, we encountered 4 different black bears. They are less shy and are usually just minding their own business.
There’s nothing like seeing a wild animal without any obstacles or barriers in between. The adrenaline of seeing a bear while in the forest is both exciting and scary. That black blob is a black bear. See it?
We encountered bighorn sheep a couple of times. They usually hang out near dirt roads or rock pits and are always in herds. In these pictures, it looks like they are kissing the road, but they are actually eating the salt concentration in the dirty. They love salt. It provides them with mineral and energy.
Even for the people native to the area, it’s a rare sight to see baby sheep. As much as it was exciting for us to see this, it’s also unfortunate that they have been so accustomed to human that they weren’t afraid to bring the babies so close to humans!
What’s even more rare of a sight is those white mountain goats. Unlike bears or sheep, mountain goats don’t walk near roads or near hiking areas. They walk near cliffs! That makes seeing them such a wow moment. Unfortunately, I was not able to get too close to one. I was walking at the bottom of a steep drop when one showed up above. To show what they look like up close, I’ve pulled an image from the interweb. Such mythical looking creatures!
Moose, biggest of all the deer family. As we were going to Maligne Lake, we saw a big shadow in the near forest. The curious side got to me so we walked up close to see what it was. They are so big, I’d ride them to war anytime.
Lastly, not all animals we saw were alive. Here is a dead squirrel. Maybe this is the famous scene-stealing squirrel?
Tips to maximize your chance to see wild animals:
- Spring is a better time to see wild animals as most animals move down to lower, warmer elevation to find food. Spring is also good due to fewer tourists.
- Take alternate routes. Smaller, less mainstream roads often have more animals hanging out near the roadside.
- Don’t drive too fast, you’ll miss it! Since we took small roads, there were much fewer cars, so we could drive as slow as we wanted. We usually drove much slower than the posted speed limit. Hey, there is only maximum speed limit, nothing about a minimum limit.
- Pay attention to other cars on the road. If you see a car stopped on the side, chances are they have spotted a wild animal.
- Go to higher elevation if you want to see grizzly bears.
Remember, NEVER, EVER feed wild animals. They can find food themselves. It’s dangerous to both animals and humans if you feed them. If you don’t want zoos to be the only place to see wild animals for future generations, then please, keep a safe distance, see with your eyes, and no interaction with any wild animals. We are visitors at their homes, so we should play by their rules.