Bison to be Reintroduced to Canada’s Oldest National Park

By Joshua Rapp Learn

Banff Bison A herd of plains bison at Elk Island Park, Alberta. Parks Canada plans to reintroduce bison from this park to a new herd in Banff — Canada’s oldest national park.
Image Credit: Wilson Hui via flickr

Bison could once again roam free in Canada’s oldest national park.

Provincial and federal officials announced a plan earlier this month to reintroduce plains bison (Bison bison bison) to Banff National Park. The plan is part of a five-year National Conservation Plan initiated by the federal government in 2014.

Successfully restoring this keystone species in Banff will allow visitors, neighbors and the public at large to experience an authentic national park experience,” said Blake Richards, a Member of Parliament for the province of Alberta in a press release. Richards spoke on behalf of Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment — the government department that oversees Parks Canada.

A statement on the national park’s website said that Parks Canada will invite First Nations groups “to share traditional knowledge of plains bison, and participate in stewardship, management and celebrations and will engage students and volunteers to participate in bison research, monitoring and stewardship activities.”

Biologist David Gummer told CBC News that the process is still in the planning phase, but that the national parks agency hopes to release between 30 and 50 plains bison into the wild over four years. They will be brought from Elk Island National Park, which sits just east of Edmonton, according to Gummer.

Bison have been absent to Banff, which sits along Alberta’s border with British Columbia, since it became the first national park in Canada and the third in the world in 1885.

Joshua LearnJoshua Rapp Learn is a science writer at The Wildlife Society. Contact him at jlearn@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about his article.

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