Here at Cathedral Mountain Lodge, we are always in the company of animals such as ground squirrels, magpies, ravens, mountain goats, and more recently, a black bear and an elk.
Billy, as we have affectionately named him, is a black bear that has been visiting us for almost two weeks. He stays down near the river and the first row of cabins to eat the buffalo berries that grow there. He doesn’t seem bothered by us, although we still caution guests against getting too close. We don’t want Billy to become too friendly, or Parks Canada will have to relocate him. We know it is very exciting to see a wild bear so close in person and we are happy that our guests have all been very considerate of the bear’s space, taking photos from their cabin porches and our patio.
July, August, and September is prime feeding time for all bears as they begin to consume massive amounts of food to build up body fat for the winter months when they enter a state of “estivation”. Estivation is a slowed metabolic state that is not true hibernation as once thought, since bears are known to awaken temporarily during warm spells. As buffalo berries are their prime food source during the summer (eating up to 250, 000 berries per day), people are cautioned to be bear aware when in areas with high concentrations of these berries, and make lots of noise when hiking on the trails during the summer.
A big beautiful female elk was right outside our main lodge a few mornings ago. Guests had the pleasure of eating breakfast and looking out the window at her grazing on the wildflowers. She was the size of a small horse and looked as though she was pregnant. Later on in the afternoon, she wandered around the property, stopping outside a few cabins along the way, much to the delight of the guests in those cabins!
Elk are also called wapiti, meaning “white rump”, and they are the most abundant grazers in the Rocky Mountains. In summer, elk eat mostly leaves and wildflowers, while grass is their main staple in the winter. Late August is mating season, during which time the elk become very aggressive and make high-pitched noises to attract their partners.
And, last but not least, we have the Columbian ground squirrel, one of the most frequently seen mammals in the Rockies. These little guys will scurry across the path right in front of you, then stand on their hind legs and squeak a warning that you are too close to their home. These squirrels eat all the time: berries, roots, leaves, insects, seeds, and flowers, spending their summer gathering food for the eight months they spend in hibernation during the winter. They are all over our property – our landscaping rocks are like a giant city of castles for these squirrels.
Now that you’ve read about our extended family here in the Rockies, come on out and meet them for yourself! See you soon!