Waterton Lakes National Park


How Many Bears are in Waterton Lakes National Park?

The answer to how many bears are in Waterton Lakes National Park fluctuates as many bears travel outside of park boundaries as part of their home range.

The two species of bears present in Waterton Lakes National Park are black bears and grizzly bears, which can be differentiated by size and shape. Grizzlies are larger than black bears and have flatter, dish-shaped faces and a distinctive hump of muscle behind their neck. Colour is not a reliable way to tell them apart. Black bears are not always black. They can be brown or cinnamon, causing them to be confused with the brown-coloured grizzly.

Both species are commonly seen along roadways between April and October, when they move to higher elevations and go into hibernation.

How Many Grizzly Bears are in Waterton Lakes National Park?

The number of grizzly bears in Waterton Lakes National Park is stable at around 70. In fact, the overall grizzly bear population of southwestern Alberta has been increasing slightly every year since 2007 and the region has the highest density of grizzly bears in Alberta. Much of the grizzly bear population wanders in and out of the park, travelling across the continental divide to British Columbia and south to Montana.

How Many Black Bears are in Waterton Lakes National Park?

The number of black bears in Waterton Lakes National Park was affected by the 2017 Kenow wildfire, as the species suffered a high rate of mortality. But black bears have returned to areas affected by the fire and their numbers are steadily increasing.

Waterton Lakes National Park Bear Books

Two books are worthwhile purchasing to learn more about bears in Waterton Lakes National Park. Kevin Van Tighem, a former superintendent of Banff National Park, calls on decades of experience and knowledge in Bears Without Fear, which helps readers understand our relationship with and attitude toward bears. In 1983, Van Tighem’s sister, Patricia, and her husband were attacked by a grizzly bear on the Crypt Lake Trail. The Bear’s Embrace is a memoir about surviving the attack, and just as important for the story, the ensuing recovery process.

grizzly bear, Waterton Lakes National Park

A grizzly bear along Red Rock Parkway.

For information on bears, go to our Bears in the Canadian Rockies page or Where to see bears in the Canadian Rockies. If you are planning on heading into the backcountry, read Bear Safety When Hiking.