Wildlife Encounters on Jasper Hikes

Large Male Grizzly Bear Coming out of Hibernation -  Hike Jasper

Bears don't actually hibernate during the winter. While bears slow down during the winter, they are not true hibernators. Black bears, Grizzly bears and Brown bears go into a deep sleep during the winter months, known as torpor. In a Hibernation "sleep", animals will not wake up when they hear noise or even if they are moved or touched. In a "torpor", animals can indeed wake up quickly and easily.
Grizzly Bears do not actually hibernate.  They sleep in a state that is called a torpor.

When Bears come out in Jasper, the First to emerge are typically Large Males, followed by solitary females and females with yearlings or two-years olds. The last to emerge are female Bear Mothers with new-born cubs.

Bears with cubs of the year have been encountered near common hiking areas in Jasper. A mother Grizzly Bear's shyness is usually obvious, however, Brown Bears do seem to require more room to avoid becoming anxious.

Mother Black Bear with 3 Little Cubs of the Year 2018


An encounter with a Black Bear mother and Cubs is common in Jasper. In most cases you will find that Black Bear mothers are fairly calm as cubs instincts to hit the tree tops relieve the mother Bear of stress. If however, you are in an open area with no trees for the Bear cubs to climb, you can expect the mother Bear to become more excited. A mother Black Bear will feel a lot more vulnerable if her cubs have to remain on the ground, and she may focus her attention on you - the threat.

Black Bear Nursing her Cubs at Dusk in 2018




Male Bighorn Sheep are a little more aggressive between late October and January.
Male Sheep may not be shy about claims to their favorite wildlife refuges. If you keep moving, they will not focus on you, but stopping and staring is exactly what they do to each other before they carry out their well-known head to head face off and batter.




Lynx sightings while hiking in Jasper are quite rare.
While hiking in Jasper, be sure to have your camera ready!
June 2017 Lynx Sighting - Hike Jasper



The largest Male Black Bear we encountered while hiking in Jasper.
This Bear still turned and went the other direction when he saw us hiking, but it does also reveal how even the largest of Black Bears do blend into the forest cover quite easily.
Largest Male Black Bear - Hike Jasper



Grizzly Bears
An angry Grizzly Bear is something you are probably never going to see, but be prepared and respectful as you never want to feel that you could have avoided an encounter that has gone bad. If you are unaware in Bear country, or your hiking becomes too ritualistic; you need to change something. A poorly planned, poorly timed or unlucky judgement call around bears may not always offer another chance.
Jasper Alberta Hiking Grizzly Encounter 2018

Grizzly Bear in Jasper National Park, Alberta; Just Out of Hibernation 2018


An encounter with a Grizzly bear mother and cubs is less likely as Brown Bears usually seek out solitute.
A mother Brown Bear's shyness would be obvious in most circumstances, however, Grizzlies are more protective of their cubs. A mother Grizzly Bear, even hundreds of meters away, may charge at the sight of a threat to her cubs. Like Black Bears, Grizzlies will take every opportunity to avoid an encounter with us, but a Grizzly mother may also cover a tremendous amount of ground to remove any threats.
Grizzly Bear and Cubs Sighting - Hike Jasper

In an actual Bear attack the Bear is often extremely quiet.
From the time of hearing any rush to actual contact may be just a few seconds >> CAN YOU ACCESS AND READY YOUR SPRAY THAT QUICKLY?

If you are hiking, start dealing with your bear encounter at first sight. Ask yourself "what could happen...worst case scenerio," and do your best to start making your situation immediately better instead of disadvantaged.

And remember.. Bears are not the only animals that possess the ability to harm a human while hiking in Jasper.

When Bears Attack they are often Silent - Hike Jasper



Wolves at Dusk near one of Jasper's Skyline Trail Entries


Aggressive Bull Elk Bugling and Guarding Harem




Natural Factors

Mother black bear eating berries 2018
Abundant berry crops might possibly mean more cubs the following year as well as offer cover that causes higher levels of suprise encounters.

Claws on a Black Bear seem cat-like, but a Black Bear weighing the same as a big cat such as a lion, could probably climb circles around them among the trees. A Black Bear's compact body and exceptionally powerful chest and back make ease of tree climbing.

Jasper Black Bear Resting
The Sleeping Guard
Coming across a Bear resting at the bottom of a tree can be common while hiking in Jasper. This happens to be a mother Bear that was sleeping at the base while her cubs slept safely up the tree. She looked up as we hiked by and simply relaxed again once she realized we were moving on.

Bears Sensitive Noses
Bears noses are claimed to have an ability up to 75 times more effective than humans, which also helps justify their lack of interest in us. If Bears were indeed interested in humans as prey it would reveal itself very consistently.

While hiking in Jasper, the Bears you come across are often the ones oriented upwind or near a food source. Bears, when able to smell us(downwind), often seem to move away from humans. On the flip-side, if a Bear is fairly close to you upwind, there is a good chance that you will smell them. Their odour certainly can assist us with our poor sense of smell!
June 2017 Black Bear Smelling - Hike Jasper

Interesting Bear Fact:
Bears have evolved unique bone characteristics that offer an ability to become somewhat elastic instead of brittle as they age. These "flexible" bones not only compliment a Bears' hibernation (lack of nutrients), but may also mean an older Bear has physical advantages in its' genetics that other animals do not.
Black Bear Cub - Hiking Jasper



Tips to Avoid Basic BEAR ENCOUNTERS:
Make noise... talking may be best. Watch for fresh bear signs. Be cautious of areas with bushes that have many ripe berries as the bears are probably not far off. Travel in groups. Never approach a bear (stay back a minimum 100 metres - preferably 300 meters when hiking). Carry bear spray and know how it works.

June 2017 Black Bear Encounter - Hike Jasper

How to handle a BEAR ENCOUNTER
- Stay calm
- Get your bear spray ready
- Speak to the bear - let the bear hear your voice
- Back away slowly, NEVER run

June 2017 Black Bear Approaches - Hike Jasper

Ridiculous among WILD BEARS
You wouldn't think we would have to say this about Bears in Jasper, but they are indeed Wild animals that live a chaotic life compared to ours. When photographing bears, use common sense. Don't follow a Bear into the forest to get that "perfect pic"!

We are sure we have all seen or been people who have done rediculous things around wild bears over the years. Chasing, approaching, or following a bear is an act that would be considered predatory to them. How would YOU feel if someone was following or watching you persistently. How would you react? Bears are certainly more forgiving than we are, but testing boundaries with any wild animal is not a good idea. Please don't invite Potential disasters with wildlife in Jasper.

TIPS for CYCLISTS
Your speed and quietness put you at higher risk of a surprise bear Encounter. Slow down through shrubby areas, downhill areas, and blind corners. Travel in groups, make noise, and watch ahead.