Wild Bison Roam Banff National Park For First time In More Than 100 Years

Bison are once again roaming Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, after the species disappeared from their natural habitat over 100 years ago.

The 16 bison are part of a plan by Parks Canada to re-establish a new wild population as part of a historic initiative that will help the conservation of the animal.

“Restoring wild bison…is the righting of wrong that was caused in the 19th century when we almost eliminated wild bison as a species.… Banff Park was involved in saving the species from extinction 100 years ago, and today it’s involved in restoring this species as part of the landscape, as a wild animal, and that is really exciting,” Harvey Locke, a conservationist and writer told CBC.

The bison were trucked in shipping containers and then airlifted into the park before being released by wildlife conservation officers. The bison are now at a remote pasture on the eastern slopes of Banff National Park near Sundre where they will be monitored for the next 16 months.

The animals will stay in the area before they are released into a 1,200-square-kilometre area (close to 500 square-miles) in the park where they will be free to interact with other animal species and integrate back into the ecosystem.

Locke doesn’t think the bison will have any problems adapting to the new environment given the species was native to the area for over 10,000 years before they disappeared.

“Reintroducing bison to Banff, part of their historic range, is an important step towards restoring the full diversity of species and natural processes to the park’s ecosystem,” Parks Canada writes on their website. “Their return would also provide new opportunities for Canadians and visitors to connect with the story of this iconic species.”

Lock sums up his thoughts by saying, “This is a great day for Banff National Park. It’s a great day for Canada and frankly, it’s one of the great days for wildlife conservation in the history of North America.”

Here’s a video showing the bison arriving after being airlifted and released.

And here is a video from Parks Canada going into further detail about the program and history of bison in Banff.

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