Wildlife safety

Waterton Lakes National Park

Wildlife reporting

To report wildlife, call: 1-888-927-3367 (Parks Canada Dispatch Centre).

Try to identify the species, the number of animals and note the animal’s description, behaviour and location.

How to safely enjoy wildlife and help protect it

Parks Canada helps protect uniquely Canadian landscapes and the ecosystems that animals depend on for their survival. When our actions reduce an animal’s wildness, the natural character of our national parks diminishes.

Whether you plan to drive the roads, hike the trails, or relax in town, take time to learn the important precautions wild areas demand. Your responsible behaviour contributes to the survival of wildlife - and your own safety!

The chance of seeing wildlife in the wild is one of the most exciting things about the mountain national parks. However, it is important to treat wild animals with the respect they deserve. Approaching them too closely threatens their survival.

Once animals become accustomed to being around people, they are in danger of losing that very thing that makes them special: their wildness.

When driving

  • Consider not stopping. Animals that become accustomed to humans are more likely to die unnatural deaths.
  • If you stop, stay in your vehicle. Pull well onto the shoulder. Do not stop on blind corners, near hill crests, or during high traffic volumes.
  • Keep a minimum of three bus lengths (30 metres / 100 feet) away from elk, deer, moose and bighorn sheep and ten bus lengths (100 metres / 325 feet) away from bears, cougars and wolves. Resist the urge to get close or call out. Telephoto lenses get the best photos. If you cause an animal to move, you are too close.
  • Move on. Stay only a few minutes. Leave immediately if an animal looks agitated (e.g. wariness, avoidance, huffing, yawning, pawing, stamping, flattened ears).
  • Never follow, approach, entice or pet wildlife (even the little ones!)
  • Never feed wildlife. A fed animal is a dead animal. Feeding wildlife is prohibited by law and may lead to a fine of up to $25,000 CDN.

In the campground

  • Pack away smells. Store food, pet food, garbage, dishes and toiletries inside your vehicle or at a designated bear-proof storage site. Locked coolers are not bear proof.
  • Keep pets safely leashed. Unattended pets may attract carnivores. Your pet is either predator or prey.
  • Carefully supervise small children when they are playing outdoors.
  • Keep a ‘Bare’ Campsite. Learn how to avoid enticing bears to your campsite. Learn more about this program.

On the trail

  • Prepare. Carry bear spray (where you can reach it) and know how to use it.
  • Be aware. Be vigilant around open meadows and streams. Watch for berry bushes, carcasses, diggings, and scat.
  • Let bears know you are there. Make noise. Talk or shout occasionally, especially when approaching water, blind corners, or avalanche slopes. Bells are not effective.

Bear safety

Waterton Lakes National Park is home to both grizzly and black bears. Although the chances of having an encounter with an aggressive bear are low, proper planning before you head out can help reduce your risk. By following a few “bear-aware” rules, you can help protect bears, too.

  • Here are some safety tips to get you started on the right foot.

Bear safety tips


Parks Canada beaver logo fades in and out of screen

[Close-up shot of bear foraging in snow in spring.]

[A bear cub playing in spring snow with mom watching.]

As we move out of winter and enter spring

the bears are waking and out and about,

[A bear and her cub play by a tree.]

and we want to provide a few key tips for folks as they travel in the park during the bear season, to keep them and the bears safe.

[A visitor looks at the Parks Canada website on his smartphone.]

We recommend checking the Parks Canada website. You can get some great information about what to do if you see a bear,

[Parks Canada staff member taking to camera. Text on screen (Dan Rafla, Human-Wildlife Co-existence Specialist, Parks Canada)]

but it also provides information about potential warning or area closures, so you can plan your trip accordingly.

[A group of hikers make noise on a trail.]

We also recommend that you hike in groups, and you make noise as you travel, and that’s not every single step but every so often,

[A shot of a fast-running creek in Waterton Lakes National Park.]

especially if your sound is muffled by a river or a thick forest.

[A group of hikers on a trail.]

Pay attention to your surroundings. Check to see if there is fresh bear scat around,

[A photo of fresh bear scat on the road.]

or some tracks to alert you that an animal may be present and you should make some noise.

[A photo of a bear track in the mud.]

[A visitor holding a can of bear spray.]

Before leaving, check your can of bear spray.

[A close-up shot of the expiry date on a can of bear spray.]

Make sure that it is not expired,

[A hiker putting a can of bear spray into a holster on his belt.]

that you are carrying it with you when you are out hiking,

[One hiker points to something and along with his acquaintance starts walking.]

and that it is close to you on your body so it is accessible if you need to use it.

[A visitor opening the trunk of her car and putting a leash on her dog.]

If you are going to bring a pet, make sure that it is leashed and in control at all times,

[A visitor walking down a trail with her dog on a leash.]

whether you are hiking or in the townsite.

[A Parks Canada member of staff talking to camera.]

If you have any wildlife concerns or see any bears on trails, visitor safety concerns or you witness park violations, please call 1-888-WARDENS

[A photo of a bear from a remote wildlife camera.]

[Text on screen (1-888-WARDENS, 1-888-927-3367)]

Parks Canada’s dispatch centre.

Parks Canada logo and text fades in and out.

Text fades in and out (Copyright Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by Parks Canada, 2018.)

Canada text with Canadian flag fades in and out.

If you are approached by a wolf / coyote/ cougar

  • If you are approached by a carnivore, the best thing to do is act aggressively (stomp your feet, yell, throw something, use pepper spray). The animal may be testing to see if you are possible prey - make it clear that you (and your dog) are not.
  • Pick up small children immediately. Stand your ground, but never jump towards the animal. Do not run.
  • By acting aggressively, you reduce the risk to yourself and other people, and help prevent the animal from becoming "habituated" to human presence.

Elk safety

Elk can be aggressive and attack without warning. During the fall mating season (August - September) male are particularly belligerent. During the spring calving season (May - June) female elk aggressively defend their young. DO NOT approach elk in any season as they are dangerous.

Deer safety

The long-term presence of deer in the Waterton community has created an artificial situation which is affecting the safety of the park's visitors and community members.

For your safety and for the safety of the deer, maintain a good distance from the animals while watching them, and do not entice or feed them. Be particularly cautious when walking your dog!

Seasonal considerations

  • Spring: In March and April, bears emerge from their dens and spend time in valley bottoms. Be bear aware on low-elevation trails and at roadsides.
  • Early summer: In May and June, give bears and elk lots of space and watch for ticks. Female bears and cubs are emerging from their dens and spending time in valley bottoms and near road sides. Female elk are calving and can be aggressive. Check your clothing and body for ticks after time on the trail. Tick bites can cause serious illness.
  • Late summer: In August, berries emerge and bears gorge on the fruits to gain weight for the winter. They may not hear or see you. Be extra bear aware.
  • Fall: In September and October, give bears and elk lots of space. It is a critical time for bears preparing for winter. Male elk are rutting and can be aggressive.
  • Early winter: Bears may stay awake as late as mid-December.

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