Banff National Park


Banff is best-known of Canadian Rockies’ reserves and Canada’s oldest, most cherished national park—a mixed blessing in midsummer when it can be overrun by more than four million annual visitors. They arrive on Canada’s main transcontinental railroad and transcontinental highway, both routed through Banff’s main valley. There are three ski resorts and the town of Banff, with 7,600 residents, fully equipped—some say too fully—with shops, restaurants, and visitor facilities. There have been declines in large predator populations.

Historically hunted, wolves were poisoned and at one time exterminated in the park. Now scientists seek to protect and identify critical habitat and study their behavior (they learned recently wolf packs may feed and care for old, crippled members no longer able to hunt for themselves).

Elk have adapted almost too well to human presence. They forage on residential landscaping, and visitors don’t always realize a mother elk with calf and bull with five-foot (1.5-m) antlers may not be as friendly as they look. Wildlife watchers should keep at least 100 ft (30 m) away from large animals.

But there are also 800 miles (1,287 km) of quiet trails to explore, where most of the wildlife visit at one time or another, as well as stunning Lake Louise below Victoria Glacier and beautiful Moraine Lake in the Valley of Ten Peaks. It should be remembered that Banff, now 2,564 square miles (6,640 km2), was originally established in 1885 not as a nature preserve but as a tourist attraction and spa.

 Elk males yearly grow ponderous antlers weighing up to 40 pounds (18 kg) used to attract and vigorously defend harems during mating. Zeal to protect harems can so distract them, however, that they inadvertently allow young bulls to sneak in and mate with some females on the side. Called wapiti in Canada—Shawnee Indian word for “white rump”—they are Holarctic, distributed over northern parts of both Old and New Worlds. In Eurasia, North American elk are known as red deer (whereas, confusingly, the species known in North America as moose—also Holarctic are known in Eurasia as elk).

Elk males yearly grow ponderous antlers weighing up to 40 pounds (18 kg) used to attract and vigorously defend harems during mating. Zeal to protect harems can so distract them, however, that they inadvertently allow young bulls to sneak in and mate with some females on the side. Called wapiti in Canada—Shawnee Indian word for “white rump”—they are Holarctic, distributed over northern parts of both Old and New Worlds. In Eurasia, North American elk are known as red deer (whereas, confusingly, the species known in North America as moose—also Holarctic are known in Eurasia as elk).

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