Field Notes: Watch for wildlife on the highways in the national parks!

By Alice Weber
Outreach Education Officer for Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks  

Each spring, motorists spy animals of various sizes outside their car windows as they zip along highways throughout British Columbia. Most encounters are positive; the glimpse of a deer bounding into the forest, an eagle flying overhead, a bear feeding on fresh spring greens. For some animals though, their foray near the edge of the highway leads to tragedy.

This spring and summer, whether your travels take you on highways through the national parks, or on other roads, there are some telltale signs that you can watch for to minimize the chance of a negative encounter with wildlife.

Park staff recently reported this sow black bear and two cubs browsing on the roadside in Mount Revelstoke National Park; to keep bears like this alive, we need everyone’s help. Nick Phillips/ Parks Canada
Steep terrain like this found above the Trans Canada Highway is ideal mountain goat habitat. Alice Weber/Parks Canada
Mountain goats, often with young snow-white fluffy goat kids in tow, use goat trails like this to travel down to the shoulder of the highway to lick salt from the side of the road. Alice Weber/Parks Canada
Last year these mountain goats spent much of the spring along the shoulder of the highway in Mount Revelstoke National Park and seemed oblivious to vehicles just a few metres away. John Flaa/Parks Canada


A new sign warns motorists to slow down. Up to eight goats per year are killed in Glacier National Park by vehicles on the highway. Don Roy/Parks Canada
When bears emerge in the spring from their winter den, they are looking for abundant food sources to make up for their winter fast. In Mount Revelstoke and Glacier national parks, new grass on the shoulders of the highway provide the first easy and plentiful source of food. John Flaa/Parks Canada
A smorgasbord of dandelions lines the highway. Dandelions are irresistible to bears, and lure them dangerously close to high-speed traffic. On average, two black bears die each year on the highway in Glacier National Park. Alice Weber/Parks Canada
Early this spring, this grizzly bear was frequently seen along the highway. John Flaa/Parks Canada
Parks Canada recommends a minimum distance of three bus lengths between people and bears. If you must stop to take a picture, assure you are in a location where it is safe to pull over and please move on soon as possible as other vehicles may stop, too, and this creates a bear jam – which is dangerous for motorists and wildlife. John Flaa/Parks Canada
Drivers also chance to see more elusive carnivores on the highway as well. This spring, park staff were surprised to spy this beautiful wolf on their early morning commute. Denis St-Onge/Parks Canada
Even more uncommon is the wolverine. This incredible photo of a very rare, road-side wolverine sighting was taken several years ago along the Trans Canada Highway, just east of Glacier National Park. Fraser Blyth photo
Whether big or small, animals rely on drivers to keep their eyes open for them. Enjoy your adventures this summer, and do your part to ensure that all of these animals are as safe as possible. Two grizzly bears feed on glacier lily bulbs in an avalanche path beside the highway. These animals are a strong reminder of the beautiful creatures that travel and live close to our rushing vehicles. Please drive safe. Denis St Onge/ Parks Canada