Make sure to stay alert and watch for signs of wildlife!
Bow River Valley
At the eastern edge of Canada’s Rockies, the Bow Valley provides passage through seemingly impenetrable mountains. Everything gets pinched between towering peaks—busy highways, a railway, bustling towns and industries, plus elk, cougars, bears and other wildlife that follow ancient pathways along gentler slopes.
With more than a million people living an hour away and four million tourists visiting each year, the Bow Valley is like a long-term experiment: can wildlife thrive amid all this human activity?
Animals here, as everywhere, are always on the move—roaming far in search of food and mates. And in a valley constrained by steep mountains and dense human development, maintaining viable wildlife corridors is a constant battle.
Even areas as big as Banff National Park are not enough. Animals need to be able to move safely long distances between protected areas.Karsten Heuer, Wildlife Biologist
Don’t feed the wildlife! (A fed bear is a dead bear)
Bears used to rummage around in town dumps all the time, a situation that resulted in a series of horrific attacks, one fatal, near Banff in 1980. By removing curbside pick-up and other attractants, and investing in bear-proof garbage bins, these communities have virtually erased what was once an endemic problem.
About 20,000 people live in the Bow Valley, mostly in Banff Townsite and Canmore, and millions of tourists, nature lovers, hikers, skiers and backcountry adventure seekers visit every year. As the human population grows and visits increase, wildlife encounters increase as well.
If there’s too much human use, animals will just abandon that area altogether.Melanie Percy, Alberta Parks
Recreating at night is highly disturbing to animals who aren’t expecting to run into people.
That’s why we’re sitting on Bear 148 now. She’s a teenager who’s just left her mother, so we’re just making sure she doesn’t make any mistakes.John Paczkowski, Alberta Parks
Carry bear spray
Living with wildlife is a commitment that must be shared by all residents and visitors alike. That means everything from hiking tips to long-term education programs that teach youth and newcomers how to respect wildlife and avoid dangerous run-ins with bears and cougars.
Taken together, those efforts have created a unique culture throughout the Bow Valley; one that’s devoted to sharing this extraordinary space with wildlife.
Keep your dog on a leash
When we see animals, we see it as a gift.Hank Snow, Wesley First Nation
First Nations of the eastern Rockies developed their culture through a spiritual connection with wildlife—a traditional perspective that’s now being recognized in local wildlife management.
In a 2016 report on effects of human activities on grizzly bears in the Kananaskis Valley, the Stoney Nation echoed calls from biologists for increased wildlife connectivity and for more holistic planning that will take the entire ecosystem into account. Stoney leaders are planning similar studies on other species, including the bison that once roamed their territory.
- Watch the Living with Wildlife film
- Living with Wildlife in other languages
- How to make your community WildSmart
- Large landscape conservation and wildlife corridors, Yellowstone to Yukon
- Bear Conflict Solutions in rural Alberta
- Human Wildlife Coexistence (pdf)
- Stoney Nakoda Traditional Knowledge (pdf)
- Article on Bow Valley wildlife in Canadian Wildlife Magazine (pdf)