Waterton Lakes National Park

A Virtual Field Trip

Wildlife and Vegetation


  The unique geography of Waterton Lakes National Park provides habitat for a multitude of wildlife and vegetation species. The dryland prairie butts up against the alpine region with no transition zone creating a unique habitat that combines the species from both regions.

  People who visit the national parks expect to see wildlife and they are not disappointed at Waterton Lakes National Park. It is an excellent place for animal lovers. The prairie blending with the mountains creates a broad range of wildlife habitats. Waterton boasts 234 species of birds, 57 species of mammals and 17 species of fish. Waterton serves as an important wildlife refuge that is mostly protected from the pressures of logging, mining, oil and gas exploration and ranching.

  The vegetation of Waterton Lakes provides a lush and striking environment that supports the wildlife in the park. The differences in elevation creates differences in climate and vegetation. The spring thaw is quicker to come on the prairies and the growing season is longer than the alpine areas resulting in vast differences in the vegetation as one travels through Waterton.

  Waterton has six major bioclimatic zones, each typified by a different type of tree, shrub and plant species which support specific wildlife species as shown in the chart below.



Tree and Plant species

Supports these kinds of wildlife

Best places to observe:



Made up of lakes, marshes and ponds

Sedges, cattails, waterbirch, beaked willow, pondweed and mare's tail

Ducks, geese, beaver, muskrat, mink

Maskinonge Lake Blakiston Lake beaver ponds


Rolling grasslands in the great plains

Fescue and oatgrass, lupine and shrubby cinquefoil

Pocket gophers, ground squirrels, coyotes, bison and meadowlarks

Along Highway 5 entering park and around bison paddocks


Groves of trees closely associated with prairie

Trembling aspen, bluebells, prickly rose, Oregon grape, snowberries

Hares, black-capped chickadees and ruffed grouse

Belly River Campground and beginning of Vimy Peak Trail.


Heavily forested, covers valleys and rises up lower mountain slopes

Lodgepole pine , Douglas fir, Douglas maple, thimbleberry, buffaloberry, blue clematis, cow parsnip and queen cup

Mule deer, black bear and cougar

Along the Chief Mountain International Highway or the lower section of Bertha Lake trail


Rises above montane zone as high as the timberline, distinguished by forests of alpine fir

Alpine fir, Englemann spruce, alpine larch, whitebark pine, beargrass, globe flower, buttercup and gentian

Goldenmantled ground squirrel, grizzly bear, Steller's jay, Clark's nutcracker and varied thrush

By Cameron Lake and along Summit Lake Trail


Rises above timberline crowning the tops of mountains

Trees are rare, lichens cling to rock faces, moss campion, sky pilot, and saxifrage where soils are formed.

Mountain goats, hoary marmots, water pipits, grey-crowned rosy finches, and white tailed ptarmigan

Upper Rowe Lake and Carthew Ridge and around Crypt Lake

  In recent years, botanists have recorded over 900 species of wildflowers in Waterton, more than half the species in all of Alberta. Prairie plants mix with alpine plants, plants from west of the continental divide mix with plants from east of the continental divide and plants that are not found anywhere else in Canada abound in the area.

 For an overview of this topic check out the Rocky Mountain Ecology page.

Here are some links that provide more information on the wildlife and vegetation at Waterton Lakes National Park.


Waterton Wildlife

Wildlife Viewing

Wildlife in Waterton Lakes National Park

The Predators of Waterton Lakes National Park

The Long-Toed Salamander

Long-Toed Salamander Study

The Gray Wolf Web

Wildlife Areas in Alberta

Wildlife of the Canadian Rockies


Rocky Mountain Wildflowers

Alpine Poppy

Jones' Columbine

Dwarf Fleabane

Links to Wildflower Research, Education, Art and General Info

Wildflowers by Name

Invasion of Exotic Plants


Fire in Waterton Lakes National Park

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 |Wildlife and Vegetation | Climate | Human History | Tourism |

| Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park |

See also | Glacier National Park |

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