Watching wildlife in the Waterton Valley

Waterton Lakes National Park

The Waterton Valley Wildlife Corridor Project examines how wildlife navigate through a portion of the valley that is naturally constricted by mountains, lakes and a canyon. It has been underway since 2015.

The study area is focused between the Waterton Golf Course and the Bertha trailhead. It hosts a high volume of human use but is vital to regional wildlife movement.

The study will inform park management in an effort to promote wildlife movement through the area into the future.

Remote wildlife cameras are the primary way of collecting information for the study. The cameras allow scientists to make observations that wouldn’t be possible with humans present.

Large mammals such as grizzly bear, black bear, moose and bighorn sheep are the focus of the study. Images of smaller animals such as flying squirrel, red fox and American marten also provide interesting insights.

Some wildlife species are more willing than others to move through areas of human habitation. A long-term goal of the project is to ensure human use of this portion of Waterton Lakes National Park does not restrict more sensitive species such as moose, grizzly bears and wolves from moving through the landscape.

The images below show a sampling of wildlife species present in the corridor project area. Many demonstrate the resilience of wildlife following the major natural disturbance of the Kenow Wildfire, which took place on September 11, 2017.

A brown American marten is standing on a boulder, looking away from the camera toward a forest.
An American marten makes its way over a boulder. Martens are skillful climbers and spend much of their time in trees.
Two blurred, light-coloured bats fly along a lakeshore at night.
Remote wildlife cameras don’t typically target bats, but these bats (species undetermined) triggered a camera as they hunted for insects along a lakeshore.
A brown-coloured mother black bear eats a mouthful of grass on a green slope with her brown cub nearby. Recently burnt trees and shrubs are also visible on the hillside.
A mother black bear and one of her three cubs eat plants regrowing on a hillside in the first spring following the Kenow Wildfire.
Three black bear cubs – one black, two brown - on a wildlife trail surrounded by green vegetation.
With their watchful mother nearby, three black bear cubs play in an area burned during the previous fall’s Kenow Wildfire.
A black bear walking down a rocky trail, through forest that burned heavily in the Kenow Wildfire.
A black bear walks down the lower portion of Alderson Trail ten days following the Kenow Wildfire.
A bull moose walks toward a lake through green vegetation.
A young bull moose walks toward a lake in spring.
Two coyotes are standing next to a frozen lake. One is looking at the lake while the other is looking toward the camera.
A coyote pair pauses along a frozen lakeshore.
A cougar walks toward the camera along a forested wildlife trail at night.
A cougar walks along a wildlife trail at night. Cougars are most active nocturnally and have extremely good vision for hunting.
A spotted elk calf follows her mother through green vegetation.
A cow elk and her month-old calf. Elk in Waterton Lakes National Park tend to avoid areas of heavy human use.
A cow elk with a calf nearby watches a black bear cling to a tree.
A cow elk with a calf nearby faces a black bear who has climbed a tree to avoid her defensive behaviour. Both parties soon moved in separate directions.
A deer mouse clings to a tall, slim plant stalk and eats seeds.
This deer mouse demonstrates its ability to climb dried beargrass stalks to munch their dried seeds.
A young bighorn sheep leaps over a boulder, its front and back legs spread forward and back.
A young bighorn sheep leaps quickly over a boulder. Bighorn sheep are highly adapted to manoeuvring through mountain environments. They can often be seen in and near the Waterton Townsite, but spend a lot of time in more mountainous terrain.
A flying squirrel on the ground of a forest at night.
Nocturnal flying squirrels are rarely observed in Waterton Lakes National Park. This was the first image of the species captured using remote wildlife cameras in the park.
The head and neck of a great blue heron are visible in front of a river, with a forest and mountain in the background.
A great blue heron hunts for fish, amphibians and other aquatic life along a riverbank.
A grizzly bear mother and cub walk along a forested trail at night.
Followed by a cub, a mother grizzly bear travels through a fire-affected area. They returned back along the trail soon after encountering the Waterton Townsite. Most grizzly bears prefer to avoid areas of human habitation.
A white-coloured long-tailed weasel with a black tail tip sniffs something under the snow in a forest.
Long-tailed weasels turn from brown to almost entirely white in winter. They prey on a variety of small animals such as mice and squirrels.
A female mallard duck and ten ducklings swim in the water adjacent to a forested lakeshore.
A female mallard duck swimming along a lakeshore with her ten ducklings.
A mule deer is grazing green plants in an area where the ground and trees are otherwise blackened by fire. A second deer is visible by its antlers on the left side of the image.
Mule deer grazing plants that regrew in the first spring and summer following the Kenow Wildfire. Mule deer are the most common deer species observed in the vicinity of the Waterton Townsite.
Two bighorn sheep graze in the lower left of the image while five mule deer graze in the mid ground of an area where green vegetation is sprouting up amidst burnt trees and shrubs.
Bighorn sheep and mule deer graze the first nutritious spring regrowth following the Kenow Wildfire.
Two spotted mule deer fawns lie in a shaded forest while watching a Columbian ground squirrel who has a mouthful dried grass.
Two resting mule deer fawns intently observe a Columbian ground squirrel who’s gathered a mouthful of food.
A red fox walks through snow with a forest in the background.
A red fox makes its way through an autumn snow. Fox families often den nearby the Waterton Townsite.
Surrounded by coniferous forest, a grouse looks toward the camera from the lower right corner of the image.
Ruffed grouse inhabit lower elevation deciduous and mixed forests in Waterton Lakes National Park. They are important prey for animals such as red fox and cougar, and themselves specialize in eating plant buds.
Sniffing the ground and with their tails upright, two skunks walk immediately alongside one another along a rocky trail at night.
A striped skunk pair moves along a recently burned-over trail at night. Skunks are members of the weasel family and most active nocturnally.
A wolf walking through snow with some snow on its nose.
A wolf walks along a snow-covered trail in early spring.
The dark figure of a wolverine moves through a forest and deep snow at night.
A wolverine makes its way through deep snow near Waterton Townsite. Wolverines typically avoid areas of human activity in Waterton. This one explored the quiet Cameron Valley while it was closed to visitor use in the winter immediately following the Kenow Wildfire.

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