Ski Northern BC this Winter
For a dusting of powder and charm.
Spring is here and with the warm weather it brings, it’s the best time of year for wildlife viewing in Mount Robson Provincial Park. Mount Robson, located in the Canadian Rockies, is the second oldest provincial park in BC and it’s designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its 217,000 ha (536,219 ac) of pristine wilderness terrain make it a thriving wildlife habitat. You can often spot wildlife along the highways before you even enter the park, as they seek the new spring growth coming up in the valley. These amazing creatures can be difficult to spot, but if you know where to look, there is a good chance to catch a glimpse and get a great photo along your journey. Here are some examples of the wildlife you may spot in Mount Robson Provincial Park, courtesy of the staff at the British Columbia Visitor Centre @ Mt. Robson:
Black bears begin emerging from their winter hibernation in mid- to late-April and their need to fill up on food will drive them to the newest spring growth. This means that through to mid-May, the best chance to spot one will be along the highway on the north side of the park. The south facing side of the road gets the most sunlight and plants such as fireweed and dandelion, which is the bears’ favourite at this time of year. As the sun rises higher in the sky, the bears migrate to the south side of the road, where the high-nutrition spring growth flowers begin blooming. Bears will generally feed in the early morning, then again a little later in the day, showing up along the highway whenever their bellies get empty. This may be as often as every few hours.
Spring is typically the only time to see grizzly bears in the valley floor at Mount Robson. Once the snow leaves, these solitary creatures move to higher ground as they forage for food. They can occasionally be seen alongside the highway, usually at higher points of the road. In past years, grizzlies have been spotted at Yellowhead Pass in the east end of the park, as well as south of the park in Albreda. In the spring, grizzlies often forage for food on south-facing avalanche slopes. Use your binoculars or spotting scope to scan avalanche slopes, watching for movement. Grizzlies have often been spotted on the avalanche slope, viewable from the deck behind the British Columbia Visitor Centre @ Mt. Robson.
Moose are very shy and are one of the most difficult large animals to spot. They enjoy eating marsh grasses and browsing on willow branches, so the best place to see these majestic creatures is in marshy areas or along riverbanks. The marshes at the east end of Moose Lake are a great place to watch for moose, as the wetlands are easily visible from the highway. When out walking, you can see signs that moose have been in the area by watching for bushes that have been browsed – branches with the leaves stripped off and the tender tips of the branches broken. Dawn and dusk are the best times of day to see moose.
Spring is the best time of year to view waterfowl, including mallards, teals (Blue-winged, Green-winged and Cinnamon), ruddy ducks, shovellers, scaups, widgeons, bufflehead, golden-eyes, ring-necks and wood ducks, as they migrate through the area, making the valley a birdwatcher’s paradise. The Canadian Geese are nesting, so it is a great time to see goslings (baby geese). The R.W. Starratt Wildlife Viewing Sanctuary in Valemount is a lovely spot to see a wide variety of bird life. The sanctuary is also a moose habitat, so there is a chance to see them as well. In the early evening, beaver and muskrat are active in the area, so as you walk the trail (which has two viewing towers along the way), there’s an opportunity to see them in the waters. Be sure to bring your binoculars!
The British Columbia Visitor Centre @ Mt. Robson keeps a log book where visitors can record which animals they have seen in the park and where, so stop by to find out where the most recent viewings have been. It is important to respect the wildlife you see as you travel through the valley. Do not approach any wild animals and refrain from feeding them or leaving food or garbage out. When you see wildlife along the highway, pull well off the road, take a couple of photos and then continue on. Your stop should be limited to a couple of minutes to show respect for the animals and other visitors to the park. Please stay in your vehicle.
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