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article imageBison will again roam Canada's Banff National Park

By Karen Graham     Feb 7, 2017 in Environment
Calgary - In what is being called "one of the great days for wildlife conservation in the history of North America," a herd of 16 plains bison were returned to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada last week after an absence of nearly one century.
In a "historic homecoming," 16 wild plains bison were reintroduced into a remote valley on the Eastern slope of the Canadian Rockies in Canada's first and oldest national park by Parks Canada this past week, reports CBC Canada.
The herd of 16 bison included 10 pregnant two-year-old females and six young bulls, all of them quarantined for three weeks and thoroughly health tested to ensure they were free of disease, are part of a five-year reversible pilot project to test the feasibility of managing wild bison in Banff.
Trucks transporting 16 bison in shipping containers head to the Panther Valley in Banff National Par...
Trucks transporting 16 bison in shipping containers head to the Panther Valley in Banff National Park. (Johane Janelle/Parks Canada)
Parks Canada
The herd was loaded into specially built shipping containers at Elf Island National Park, 35 kilometers (22 miles) east of Edmonton, where Parks Canada maintains a herd of 700 wild plains bison, a primary source of animals for reintroduction projects around the world.
After being trucked to the park, the containers were air-lifted by helicopter to an enclosed "soft-release" pasture where the animals were released. All the bison are wearing radio-collars so that they can be monitored to ensure they have plenty of food and water as well as to ensure they are safe and well for the next 18-months.
A crew waits for the safe delivery of the bison inside the shipping container. (Johane Jonelle/Parks...
A crew waits for the safe delivery of the bison inside the shipping container. (Johane Jonelle/Parks Canada )
Parks Canada
The BBC is reporting that in the summer of 2018, the herd will be released into a 1,200-square-kilometre area on the eastern slopes of the park, where they can again interact with the environment as they did for thousands of years in the past. Parks Canada also maintains bison herds at other national parks across Canada, including Elk Island, Grasslands, Prince Albert, Wood Buffalo, Riding Mountain and Waterton Lakes national parks.
Harvey Locke, a conservationist, writer, and trustee with the Eleanor Luxton Historical Foundation in Banff commented on the historic event, 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."
A lot of time, effort and thought went into the project and the reintroduction was not taken lightly. Ranchers opposed to the bison release voiced their concerns over the animals escaping and damaging crops or carrying disease to their livestock. But with the thorough vetting of the process and constant monitoring by Parks Canada, opponents should feel easier.
The introduction of 16 bison into Banff National Park marks a historic moment and possibly the begin...
The introduction of 16 bison into Banff National Park marks a historic moment and possibly the beginning of a thriving herd, absent for more than a century. (Parks Canada )
Parks Canada
This reintroduction project is an educational opportunity for all of us. The wild bison is a keystone species that helped to shape the montane and sub-alpine ecosystems of the Canadian Rockies. The bison was not only a historic and dominant grazer but an eco-engineer, influencing the ecosystem in ways that benefit both plants and animals.
The bison also has great spiritual and cultural significance to the First Nations people of North America. Parks Canada reminds us that the future success of this project depends on collaboration and cooperation between Canadians, stakeholders, and Indigenous Peoples.
More about Banff National Park, Plains bison, conservation move, Parks canada, fiveyear project
 
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