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1990: Bison under threat in Wood Buffalo National Park

The Story

Infected with tuberculosis and brucellosis, nearly 4,000 bison in Wood Buffalo National Park are facing a mass cull. As the disease threatens to spread to nearby cattle populations, the Canadian government contends it's necessary to euthanize many of the bison and create a new herd. But scientists and conservationists oppose the plan, and indigenous leaders say that killing the bison is "condemning the Dené-Métis way of life." In this 1990 documentary from CBC-TV's The Journal, reporter Jerry Thompson illustrates how the bison were exported from the U.S. and how government-led crossbreeding experiments in Canada led to generations of diseased herds.

Medium: Television
Program: The Journal
Broadcast Date: Feb. 8, 1990
Guests: William Bulmer, Ken East, Vilarius Geist, Chris Mills, Stacey Tessaro
Reporter: Jerry Thompson
Duration: 14:55
Footage: NFB

Did You know?

• A federal environmental review panel gave the go-ahead to a plan to kill and replenish the bison herd, the so-called "Armageddon option." But it was nixed at the last minute by the Mulroney government in 1991 after opposition poured in.

• In 2017 a report by the International Union of the Conservation of Nature, a Swiss group that monites ecologically sensitive sites around the world, reported that Wodd Buffalo National Park was deteriorating due to climate change and dam construction upstream of the park's Peace-Athabasca Delta. 

• At 44,087 square kilometres, Wood Buffalo National Park is Canada's largest national park and one of the largest national parks in the world. Established in 1922 to protect the area's free-roaming bison herds, roughly three-quarters of the park is situated in northern Alberta while the rest lies in the Northwest Territories. It's located directly north of Alberta's Athabasca oilsands. The park's headquarters are in Fort Smith, N.W.T.

• The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added Wood Buffalo to its World Heritage list in 1983.




UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Canada more