Bison to be reintroduced to Banff National Park

Bison will be reintroduced to Banff National Park over the next five years, the federal government announced Friday.

Project estimated to cost $6.4M

By the 1890s it is estimated that fewer than 2,000 bison survived in North America. The near loss of this animal made agricultural settlement of the great plains possible and forever changed the relationship between humans, bison and the land in which they live. (Parks Canada/CNW Group)

Bison will be reintroduced to Banff National Park over the next five years, the federal government announced Friday.

It follows years of planning by local groups and parks officials.

"The long-term objective for the project is to have a self-sustaining bison herd that supports ecological integrity, enriches visitor experience, creates culture connections and provides learning and stewardship opportunities," said area MP Blake Richards during the announcement. 

The federal government says plains bison once played a key role in the park's montane ecosystem, but has been mostly absent from the park since its establishment.

"Successfully restoring this keystone species in Banff will allow visitors, neighbours and the public at large to experience an authentic national park experience," said Richards in a release.

Parks Canada hopes to release 30 to 50 young bison in Banff National Park in about four years time. Biologist David Gummer says they are still in the planning stages.

"That's when the bison will be brought here from Elk Island," he said. 

Gummer says there could be as many as 75 bison roaming the park 10 years from now.

Parks Canada says it will invite First Nations to share traditional knowledge of plains bison, and participate in stewardship, management and celebrations. Students and volunteers will also be engaged to participate in bison research, monitoring and stewardship activities. 

"We have a lot to learn how bison use the landscape here in Banff — how they are affected by predators, those sorts of things that will have a big effect on how the population grows through time," said Gummer.

The project will cost roughly $6.4 million. The investment is designed to support Canada's National Conservation Plan.


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