May 04 - Jasper, Alberta

A massive snowstorm had left a few centimetres of snow on the ground around Jasper but when I arrived back at the National Park centre the warden I spoke to said that it is still nice enough to go for a walk.

For some reason I agreed. I headed along one of the trails, which lead me high up along a ridge that bordered the town to the north. Not slipping and sliding of the side of the mountain was my main concern but as I headed deep into the forest my concern was soon forgotten. Tracks in the new snow of two people heading the direction I had come from were accompanied by what my wild animal leaflet said were cougar (mountain lion) tracks. Realising I was no longer at the top of the food chain and being about 10km from the town by myself I was a little worried. When a Cougar wants you for dinner, unless you kill it, there is very little you can do to scare off the most successful killer of the cat family.

Leaving the trail is extremely dangerous because animals know where people usually walk and surprising a bear or elk can be a bad move, so I picked up the pace a bit and fortunately the snow stopped falling. As I arrived at a trail intersection I changed my route and headed back towards town.

By the time I arrived at the edge of town the snow in the town had melted and the sun was coming. With this in mind I took the trail around the east of town down along the railway tracks to the south of Jasper. As I walked through the forest I stopped dead in my tracks. I realised that standing no more than 2 metres away from me on the other side of 2 small trees was a fully-grown bear. Uh oh! This was a little bit too close (safe distance is 100m) and I was glad when the bear looked at me. If it hadn’t seen me it might have been surprised and attacked me. I backed away slowly as the bear stood by the side of the trail and watched me. As I looked around to make sure there were no other bears or cubs I moved behind some small trees so there was something between the bear and me. I moved back along the path as the bear came out and wandered along the path for a bit. Deciding to get some more distance between the advancing bear and myself I climbed up the railway embankment. I sat and watched the bear sniff along the trail for about 15 minutes but when the bear walked up the side of the steep embankment (30 feet high) with no problem I decided that I had better leave. If the bear had decided to chase me then I would not have stood much of a chance. (There is a great picture of this encounter in the Jasper Views and Wildlife gallery).

Happy to see my first bear in the wild but at the same time a little shaken by the proximity of this encounter I headed back along the trail into town. The warden I spoke to that morning was not surprised by the bear’s behaviour. They had just come out of hibernation recently and food was the only thing on their mind. Food was also on my mind so I headed into town and found a place that served me some Caribou (reindeer) sausages. Yummy!

Related Pages

Travel Guide - Alberta
Travel Guide - Jasper
Photographs of Jasper

Travel Diary

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