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Bison report card shows gains in conservation efforts

For the first time, the American Bison Society meeting is being held in Canada. On Tuesday, in Banff, Alta., the group shared some notable milestones for restoring North America’s wood and plains bison population.

American Bison Society shares achievements at conference in Banff, Alta.

The American Bison Society has heard conservation programs are paying off for the wood and plains bison. (Elk Island National Park/Parks Canada)

Bison conservation across North American is steadily moving in the right direction, according to a 10-year report card released Tuesday by the American Bison Society in Banff, Alta.

For the first time, the ABS is holding its annual conference in Canada — bringing together more than 150 bison scientists, producers, advocates, philanthropists and artists.

"We've moved farther and faster than I would have imagined," said Keith Aune, director of bison conservation with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

"Bison are starting to find new landscapes and we're seeing community and societies and cultures rally around its recovery. And that's a huge step."

Some of the notable milestones listed in the ABS's report card include the U.S. government making the bison the country's first national mammal, an Alberta herd making a historic 650-km journey back to its ancestral home and the birth of the first-ever genetically pure American bison calf through embryo transfer.

This is the first time the Society has met in Canada. In Banff, Alta., on Tuesday, the group shared some milestones in conservation efforts. (CBC)

"All nature matters," Harvey Locke, co-founder of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.

"The bison is one that profoundly affects the state of the landscape — it eats the grass in a certain way that leaves conditions that are good for other animals. Birds use their hair to line their nests which increases the survivorship rate of chicks."

The ABS was founded over a century ago by the first director of the Bronx Zoo and president Theodore Roosevelt to save the bison from extinction.​ It disbanded in 1935, but re-launched in 2005.