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Banff's bison herd growing, thriving as it explores new range, Parks Canada says

Parks Canada says the Banff bison herd is thriving as it explores its new mountain terrain, and it's growing in size after all 10 of the expectant mothers successfully delivered their calves.

All 10 expectant mothers successfully gave birth in Banff’s backcountry

The Banff bison herd has grown to 34 members as it continues to explore lands to graze, according to Parks Canada. (Parks Canada)

Parks Canada says the Banff bison herd is thriving as it explores its new mountain terrain, and it's growing in size after all 10 expectant mothers successfully delivered their calves.

In the most recent blog post on the bison, Parks Canada says the herd — which now totals 34, with this year's births — is spending its time on high ridges and at alpine lakes.

"The animals are traveling through unexpected terrain," said the Oct. 25 blog post.

Parks Canada staff work nine-day shifts as bison stewards, gently steering the animals to discover key grazing lands in their new range. (Parks Canada)

"The herd has been shifting in and out of smaller groups of animals that are exploring key grazing areas. The bison seem to be developing an affinity for their new range, just like we hoped they would."

Parks Canada has a team of bison stewards who have been travelling with the animals on foot, ski or horseback as the herd explores the 1,200-square-kilometre range.

In one nine-day shift in September, stewards travelled 110 kilometres with the herd. (Parks Canada)

"While in the backcountry, bison stewards monitor the herd to collect information about animal health, behaviour and their use of the landscape," the blog said.

In a nine-day stint in September, the stewards travelled 110 kilometres and slept in two backcountry patrol cabins as they followed the herd using telemetry to listen to signals sent by the bison's radio-collars.

"In addition to keeping an eye on the herd, bison stewards have long days that range from setting up remote cameras, taking down the soft-release pasture fences, clearing trails, to gently shepherding the bison," the blog said.

The Parks Canada bison stewards use telemetry to listen to signals sent by the bison’s radio-collars. (Parks Canada)

Many of the bison returned to their original soft-release pasture in the Panther Valley north of Banff and were then steered eastward to the Lower Panther Valley, an excellent grazing area of open meadows and little snow.

"In these initial months following their release, we want to help them discover key areas in their new range so they will be aware of seasonal grazing opportunities throughout the reintroduction zone," said the blog post.

One cow and her young took a 50-kilometre, two-day trip in early October that covered areas out of Banff National Park and back again to rejoin the herd.

The Parks Canada stewards were able to steer the bison to the Panther Valley, where the rolling meadows are snow-free most of the year and offer great fall and winter grazing for the animals. (Parks Canada)

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