Finding Bears in Banff National Park

Grizzly Bear

Finding Bears in Banff National Park

People are drawn from all over the world to Banff National Park for a number of equally compelling reasons.  The park is nestled in the amazingly scenic Bow Valley surrounded by formidably named mountain peaks such as Rundle, Cascade and Sleeping Buffalo (actually named Tunnel but most locals use the traditional name).  The park features turquoise blue water which settles in great lakes or flows fiercely down the trout filled rivers as if it is in a hurry.  The walls of the valley are lined by a plethora of varying tree species.  In spring, the scent of the Christmas, Englemann Spruce, trees tickles the senses while in the fall the bright golden glow of soon to fall leaves on the Trembling Aspen and White Poplar trees shine.

However, despite the amazing flora and scenery that find home in Banff National Park, the true draw to visitors is the wildlife.  Here on the pasture lands huge bull elk protect their harem of mates as they graze gently.  Along the roadsides

A young bull grazing near the townsite of Banff

A young bull grazing near the townsite of Banff

deer skiddishly nibble on their favourite treats while their ears remain in constant sense of their surroundings before dancing off through the forest in search of serenity.  Giant moose awkwardly trample through the wet lands crashing through shrubs as they feed.  Fierce predators such as the elegant Grey Wolf and the ever adaptive Coyote hunt constantly as they track over immense areas of land.  More elusive animals such as the Lynx, the Wolverine, and the Cougar also find refuge here in the park.   But the true draw is the presence of a large population of highly visible bears.

Through the summer months (May-Sept) two different types of bears can be found playing

Lake Louise

their way through the primary forests, along highway sides, and on the desolate paths of previous years’ avalanches.  Black bears paddle their way through bushes of berries spending nearly the entire day nibbling.  Over-sized Grizzly Bears can grow to as large as 900 pounds in weight and dig for the majority of their food.  Huge holes can be found through the forest where they have dug up edible tree roots as well as unsuspecting, and hibernated, ground squirrels.  While visiting the park, witnessing the majestic stature of this gentle beast is a treat in itself.

These creatures truly are the kings of the forest.  They roam at will undisturbed by anything, other than perhaps the presence of far too many over excited tourists who feel the need to get as close to the beasts as possible.  These bears are often too busy to be disrupted as they need to feed on thousands of berries per day to fill their caloric quota.  Unlike bears in neighboring British Columbia, these animals do not get any of their nutritional value from Salmon swimming upstream to spawn.  Thus, these great being need to be at constant work chewing away at anything that will give them the strength they need.

Photographing bears is often a challenge, getting close enough to the great animals is one thing, getting a clean shot free

The usual shot you get of black bears

The usual shot you get of black bears

of the bushes that they eat from is another.  The majority of shots taken result in fuzzy black or grey spots seen in the middle of green foliage as to which tourists return home to their families and friends swearing by the fact that the dot in their picture frame is actually a bear.  However, some things aren’t meant to be photographed, and spending a few sheer minutes watching this majestic creature alone is worth any photograph brought home to brag about.

Written and Photographed by Brendan van Son


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

Share This Post On

6 Comments

  1. Your fuzzy out of focus bear’s rear end picture may not be what you were looking for, but it is still a pretty cool photo. I wrote an article about a missed opportunity in Thailand when I had the perfect picture of an elephant lined up. The photo would not take because there was not enough light. By the time this was corrected the elephant was gone and I got a photo similar to the bear in this article. I came up with the same premise as you did, which is the memory was more precious than the photo. Great minds think alike.

    Post a Reply
  2. Haha! Your last shot of the bear looks exactly like my recent bear shot. Nice job on the first pic! Agreed with both you and Ted, it was more than satisfying enough just to watch the bear in its natural habitat.

    Post a Reply
  3. Heehee, I think the shot you took made the bear look like they’re camera shy 9they’re running away). I would be scared seeing a bear that size, but taking a shot without them notice is another story.

    Post a Reply
  4. When we were there in the summer we saw Elk, Deer, Coyote and Bears but didn’t get the chance to see a moose (Hey, Africa gets its Big 5, this is Western Canada’s Big 5!)

    Post a Reply
  5. It’s nice to see you continue on with the Stories and pictures in North America, especially Alberta.

    Post a Reply
  6. Beautiful images that show why the Banff National Park is so popular. And lets face it, if getting a great photo of a grizzly bear was simple, then all the challenge would be gone. There is nothing like stalking an animal and using your skills to try and get close enough for the perfect photo.

    Even the shot of the disappearing bear has its charm. Obviously hastily grabbed, it shows the difficulty in photographing wildlife.

    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *