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Winter Wildlife

Ptarmigans by Peter A. Dettling & TerraMagica.ca

Peter Dettling, owner of Canmore’s Terra Magica gallery and author/photographer of The Will of the Land, shares favourite locations to see animals in winter:

Icefields Parkway Ptarmigan Most birds leave in winter, but some adaptable species remain. At the south end viewpoint of Bow Lake (20 min north of Lake Louise, Map 1), a raven pair always greets tourists. Farther north, white tailed ptarmigan frequent the meadows below Bow Summit, but their white winter plumage make them hard to spot. Listen for hooting owls before sunrise or after sunset on Hwy 11 just east of the Parkway, particularly in February and March.

Bow Valley Parkway Moose Aptly named Moose Meadows east of the Town of Banff along Hwy 1A (Map 1) has habitat perfect for these large mammals. But resident elk (or wapiti) offer more reliable sightings. Large elk bulls (or stags) often reside east of Johnston Canyon, especially in early winter. Also watch for elk in the meadows just north of town on either side of Hwy 1.

Vermilion Lakes American Dippers Check hot spring heated waters (Map 3, 3B) where tiny dippers on rocks rapidly bend at the knee and bob their heads up and down in search of food. Try to spot wolf or cougar tracks on the road or frozen portions of the lakes.

Please don’t feed animals or get too close. Harsh winters can make them weak and stressful flight from tourists can reduce their ability to survive.—JN

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