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Wolves leave new bison neighbours alone in Banff National Park

A herd of bison have been roaming free since being reintroduced to the park last summer — but wolves, their natural predator, have left them alone.

The natural predators may take a few years to get the courage to attack

Wolves in Banff National Park know their bison neighbours have moved in but they haven't yet attacked their natural prey, says a Parks Canada expert. (The Associated Press)

Wolves in Banff National Park haven't yet tried to take down one of their new neighbours.

The herd of bison was reintroduced to the park last summer and has roamed free ever since.

The wolves know the bison have moved in but they haven't yet attacked their natural prey — something that will come with time, Parks Canada resource conservation manager Bill Hunt says.

Wolves are one of the few species bold enough to try to take down a bison, Hunt says. He thinks it could be several years before they get the courage. Then, he says, they'll likely go after a yearling or calf.

"Bison are the largest land mammal in North America. Even compared to a moose or something. It's a really large prey item," Hunt said.

"They travel in herds, unlike moose that are singular and compared to an elk … it's a much larger and more formidable animal."

A herd of 34 bison are now free-roaming in Banff National Park after a reintroduction project that began in February 2017. The herd was formally released to roam free last summer. (Dan Rafla/Parks Canada)

The delay is completely natural and expected, he says, and staff are watching the situation closely.

They have collared two wolves in the Red Deer-Clearwater pack, so staff can collect satellite data to track the animals. That's shown the wolves have checked out the bison at times.

Banff bison cross the Panther River. The bison are free-roaming a large area in the remote eastern slopes of Banff National Park. (Dan Rafla/Parks Canada)

"We can sort of watch it on a virtual reality scene with the satellite data," Hunt said. "They spent, you know, upwards of half an hour in the same area as the bison."

He says the lack of attacks will give the herd of 34 bison time to grow.   

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