Wild about life in Yoho National Park

Whether discovering Yoho National Park by car, or hiking through its splendid backcountry, opportunities to glimpse the park’s abundant and diverse wildlife abound

Lindsay McPherson

PR  and communication officer  for Parks  Canada

Whether discovering Yoho National Park by car, or hiking through its splendid backcountry, opportunities to glimpse the park’s abundant and diverse wildlife abound.

Perhaps the animals most closely associated with the Canadian Rockies are grizzly and black bears.

Bears have huge home ranges, and frequently cross boundaries between the parks into provincial lands – a single adult male grizzly bear’s home range is roughly the same size as the city of Calgary. If you spot a bear on an adventure in Yoho, resist the urge to get too close – bears that become habituated to humans through constant and repeated exposure are at a greater risk of dying a human-caused death.

The Canada lynx is one of Yoho’s more elusive species, due to its home range in high wintergreen forests and nocturnal behaviour. You tend to find lynx in areas that support their favourite prey item – the snowshoe hare.

In fact, a past study showed that a single Canada lynx can eat up to 200 snowshoe hare in one year. Lynx track snowshoe hare in their preferred habitat, which consists of a thick undergrowth of shrubs and saplings for food and cover. These types of landscapes are often found in young forests regenerating after disturbances created by wind throw, forest insects, forest disease, or fire.

Although Yoho likely doesn’t likely have a resident, reproducing pack, wolves from provincial lands and adjacent national parks make use of parts of Yoho throughout the year. Though their numbers have slowly increased, the wolf population remains lower than its historic level, due to widespread hunting and population control programs in place in the 1940s and 1950s on provincial lands and even within the national parks.

Wolves can travel incredible distances. This is best illustrated by Pluie, a female gray wolf that lived in the Canadian Rockies in the early 90’s. Fitted with a radio collar and satellite transmitter in the summer of 1991, Pluie’s was tracked for two years while she travelled more than 100,000-square kilometers through Banff National Park into British Columbia, across the U.S. to Montana, over to Idaho, then into Washington before returning home to Canada. All told, Pluie travelled through two countries, two provinces, three states and numerous national parks and protected areas in search of a mate and food.

Elk are a commonly seen animal in the park, especially around Field in the fall and early spring. Yoho’s lush valley bottoms provide elk with ideal grazing areas and habitat connectivity.

Though they don’t appear imposing, cow elk with calves can be quite dangerous and have been known to charge at perceived threats. Like all animals in the park, it is important to stay a safe distance away and give them the space they need to live.

In the spring and summer, Yoho is filled with the songs of migratory birds. A set of binoculars and an identification book are key to naming the over 200 birds that have been recorded in Yoho. These include finches, warblers, hummingbirds, owls, hawks, the mountain bluebird, and golden eagle. The Leanchoil Marsh near Wapta Falls is one of the best places to view waterfowl, like teals, mallards and mergansers.

Parks Canada and the community of Field invite you to join us at the Field Community Centre on October 9th from 4 until 7: 30 pm as we wrap-up our celebrations of Yoho’s 125th anniversary with a pie baking contest, a variety show by Mountain World Heritage Interpretive Theatre, and a pot luck dinner. For more information please call the Yoho Visitor Centre at 250 343 6783.