Banff bison capacity 'much bigger than we thought,' new report suggests

A paper published by experts from Parks Canada and the University of Montana says Banff National Park has the capacity for a bison herd to reach more than 1,000, says a program co-ordinator.

New research puts science behind what many already believed about herd size possibilities

Bison thundered into plains between 195,000 and 135,000 years ago, a new study reveals. (Dennis J. Lingohr/American Prairie Foundation/AP)

A paper published by experts from Parks Canada and the University of Montana says Banff National Park has the capacity for a bison herd to reach more than 1,000.

Experts have been studying the habitat over several years to determine the herd size it could support. Roughly 30 to 50 young plains bison will be reintroduced to the national park next year.

It would take several decades for a herd to reach that figure on its own.

Marie-Eve Marchand, with the Bison Belong campaign in Banff National Park, says the findings are good news for long term conservation.

"It's much bigger than we thought," Marchand told CBC News.

"There's only a few herds [in North America] over 1,000 and this paper says that Banff could hold over 1,200. We're looking at the mid-long term before we even get there. I would say it's probably going to be something for the next generations."

Marchand says it shows the conservation potential in North America, and especially in Alberta.

"It's really amazing because it shows what a lot of people had thought but finally we have science that says exactly how many bison we could hold in Banff National Park."

The animals once played a key role in the area's ecosystem, but have been mostly absent since the park was established.

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