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I (Joel) usually carry my little digital point and shoot camera with me while hiking and snowshoeing.  It’s amazing what you come across out there in the park.  Here are my favourite wildlife shots from 2018.

White-tailed ptarmigan. In February, while snowshoeing in Yoho National Park with guests from Germany, we came across a white-tailed ptarmigan feeding on willows in a meadow. A shaft of sunlight came through the trees as it reached up for a bud.


Grizzly bear and cubs. In all the years of living here, we have only rarely seen grizzly bears while we’ve been out hiking in the park.  Imagine my surprise when I was out for a walk on the shore of Lake Louise in June, and in a field of dandelions right beside the Chateau Lake Louise, there was a grizzly bear mom (bear #142, for those who want to know) and her two young-of-year cubs.  Parks Canada staff had cordoned off the meadow, and I (along with several hundred other astonished visitors) got to watch them feed and play.  It was a magical experience.


Harlequin duck. This is one of Banff’s most beautiful birds.  Nadine’s brother and niece were visiting from Ottawa, and we were all out for a paddle on Moraine Lake.  This drake was roosting by the shore, and didn’t budge as we quietly drifted by.


Hoary marmot. This big guy poked his head up out of the rocks on the shore of Katherine Lake, at Dolomite Pass.  He seemed curious, so he wandered our way, giving me a rare close-up of the jumbo-sized teeth sported by these big ground squirrel.  And their feet look really neat up close as well!


Clark’s nutcracker. Visitors often see these birds at parking lots or popular viewpoints, mooching for food.  You forget how regal they look.  I spied this one at the Little Beehive, right near treeline.


Columbian ground squirrel. This was a truly funny moment.  On the shore of Lake Agnes, in July, we came across a juvenile ground squirrel (born in the spring), and a very annoyed looking adult.  We’re guessing it was mom or dad, and it was belting out the high-decibel “chip” call that these animals use to sound the alarm.  It must have been loud even for junior, who shut its eyes in response.


Porcupine. I was hiking on my own in August, coming home from a giant day hike in Paradise Valley, and I almost stepped on this porcupine.  I don’t know who was more scared.  It scurried a few steps into the woods, then turned to face me.


Pika. For me, it was the year of the pika: They kept popping up while we were hiking, and since they’ve got the market cornered on cute, I had to put this one in the mix.


Mule deer. In October, just after our season ended, we headed down to Waterton Lakes National Park, which had seen a major wildfire in September 2017. We watched a herd of deer feeding in the vegetation growing back after the fire. The phoenix was rising from the ashes.

And as we say goodbye to 2018, that’s a good place to end.  Happy New Year and all the best for 2019.