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Mammals of the Mt. Robson Area of Jasper National Park
JASPER, Alberta – Robson Provincial Park is home to a variety of mammals characteristic of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and the Canadian Boreal Forest. These include the largest and most spectacular of Canada’s wildlife such as the moose and the grizzly bear. There is also an array of fur-bearing carnivores that figured prominently in Canada’s early history plus a variety of small but important rodents, shrews and lagomorphs.
Large herbivores also live within Robson and they perform short seasonal migrations which are mostly altitudinal in nature. These migrations coincide with the seasons and can be linked with the ebb and flow of the Canadian tide. In summer, the animals move up and disperse; in winter they move down and concentrate.
Goats generally stay close to their home range, while moose and caribou move much greater distances. A band of goats can usually be seen on Jasper’s Cinnamon Mountain northwest of the viewpoint.
In winter, moose concentrate in willow jungles at lower elevations such as the Moose Lake marsh area and deciduous forests in the vicinity of the Fraser River near Robson Meadows. Their winter range is the prime factor in the distribution and abundance of ungulates.
Robson in Jasper National Park is bear country with good populations of both black and grizzly bears. Visitors are most likely to see the former species.
Small fur-bearers such as weasels, mink, marten and otters are moderately common in Robson, but seldom seen by visitors. Red foxes, coyotes and wolves may sometimes be met along trails and the highway. Since these animals are usually crepuscular or nocturnal, observations are often limited to fleeting glimpses around the corner of a trail or a flash in a car’s headlights. Frequently the only signs of mustelids and canids are their tracks and droppings.
Much can be said for muskrats and beaver. Muskrat houses, or “push-ips” (trapper jargon), are a feature of Moose Lake Marsh. Beaver workings can be found along the Fraser River Nature Trail below the Nature House and abundantly at Lucerne on the Labrador Tea Trail. Beavers affect boreal forest ecology and their national recognition as the Canadian symbol make them a favourite with both locals and visitors alike.
Columbian ground squirrels, hoary marmots, a variety of hares, porcupines and a multitude of mice, voles and shrews make Robson their home. Ground squirrels and marmots are local in distribution but diurnal in habit. Their sedentary habit and usually approachable nature make them popular subjects for photography.
Hares may be abundant and noticeable when at their cyclical peaks. Their effect on the regeneration of deciduous trees (their prime winter food) is considerable.
Porcupines are often seen by hikers. In summer they spend most of their time on the ground feeding on a variety of herbaceous plants; in winter they are mostly arboreal, subsisting on a diet of inner bark. The Lodgepole Pine is the porcupine’s favorite food tree. The porcupine climbs to the top branches then eats its way down leaving only a white skeleton behind.
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