Wildlife

Few places in the world have as great a diversity of wildlife as Alberta. The province boasts 587 species of wildlife, including 10 species of amphibians, 93 mammals, 411 birds, eight reptiles and 65 fish. British Columbia is the only province in Canada with a greater number of mammals.

Alberta zoos and wildlife centres

Alberta has a number of zoos and interpretive centres where you can also see and learn about native and exotic species.

Seeing wildlife in the wild

Viewing wildlife in the wild requires more planning and patience than visiting zoos and wildlife centres, but can be much more rewarding.

Alberta Sustainable Resource Development has developed wildlife viewing guides for eight main regions of Alberta. These guides outline the viewing areas in these regions areas and list the wildlife that can be seen there.

Notable Alberta mammals and birds

Below are some lists of notable mammal and bird species and suggestions of where to see them in Alberta.

Mammals

Bison

Once numerous throughout the North American plains, bison are now limited to isolated pockets. In Alberta, the best places to see them are at Elk Island National Park east of Edmonton, and near Waterton in southern Alberta. North American's largest population of wild bison live in Wood Buffalo National Park in the northeast of the province.

Grizzly bear

Once common across the prairies, grizzly bears are now limited to the area surrounding the Rocky Mountains and forested areas in north-central and northwestern Alberta. They are bigger than the black bear with a large shoulder hump and are often light brown in colour. The best place to see grizzly bear in Alberta is in the foothills and mountains in the Kananaskis, Canmore and Banff National Park areas. Please review the Alberta BearSmart guide for tips on safe hiking and camping in wilderness areas.

Black bear

Black bears are smaller than grizzly bears, normally with darker fur and straight rather than curved claws. They are more widespread than grizzly bear, living in forested areas. Please review the Alberta BearSmart guide.

Caribou

Known as reindeer in other parts of the world, there are two main sub-species of caribou in Alberta: woodland and mountain. A good place to see mountain caribou is in the Tonquin Valley in Jasper National Park and woodland caribou can be seen in northern parts of the province, including around the Slave Lake community.

Bighorn sheep

The bighorn sheep is Alberta's provincial mammal. Their name comes from the huge curled horns that the male sheep grow. Their wool is a light brown colour and they have a paler patch on their rump. They can be found throughout the Rocky Mountains, particularly on the Maligne road near Jasper, the Bow Valley Parkway towards Canmore from Calgary and the main road towards Kananaskis village.

Mountain goat

Mountain goats are actually an antelope, not a goat. They inhabit the most inhospitable mountain terrain, which keeps them away from predators. Good places to see mountain goats in Alberta include near Mt. Keresklin in Jasper National Park and in Banff National Park. Often confused with bighorn sheep, mountain goats are white with sharp black horns.

Wapiti (elk)

The wapiti or elk is the second largest member of the deer family after the moose. They can be seen along the full length of the Rocky Mountains, in the Cypress Hills region in southeastern Alberta, at Elk Island National Park near Edmonton and near Cold Lake.

Birds

Great horned owl

The great horned owl is the official bird of Alberta. It is a year-round resident and can be found in forests, open woods and river valleys outside of mountainous regions.

Burrowing owl

Endangered in Alberta, this owl lives in burrows abandoned by other creatures such as badgers, gophers or foxes. Your best chance to see them is in southern Alberta in the summer.

Snow Goose

Snow geese pass through Alberta on both spring and fall migrations and stop in shallow wetlands, lakes and fields. One place they can sometimes be seen is in Holden, southeast of Edmonton.

American white pelican

The American white pelican is one of the world's largest birds, weighing up to eight kilograms. Lake Newall near Brooks is a good place to see American white pelicans from late April to late September as is Lakeland Provincial Park near Lac La Biche.

Whooping cranes

Whooping cranes are the tallest bird in North America and highly endangered. They arrive at their breeding area in Wood Buffalo National Park in northeast Alberta in April and begin flying south to Texas in September.

More information on birdwatching in Alberta can be found on the Travel Alberta website.