After more than 100 years of being gone, wild bison are now free to roam Banff National Park, Parks Canada announced on Monday.
16 bison, mostly pregnant, were released to freely roam the park and hopefully begin a new herd of their own. The bison were herded into shipping containers and released in the park last week.
The bison will remain in a pasture for 16 months, being closely monitored by Parks Canada, to make sure they’re healthy and adjusting well.
Sometime in the summer of 2018, the bison will be moved to a 1,200 square kilometer area of the eastern slopes of the park. Here they will be allowed to live freely as they once did.
“This is a great day for Banff National Park. It’s a great day for Canada and frankly, it’s one of the great days for wildlife conservation in the history of North America,” says Harvey Locke, a trustee with the Eleanor Luxton Historical Foundation in Bamff.
This is the first step in a long term goal to re-establish a wild population of bison in the national park and contribute to the greater conservation of the animal.
“Restoring wild bison … is the righting of wrong that was caused in the 19th century when we almost eliminated wild bison as a species.… Banff Park was involved in saving the species from extinction 100 years ago, and today it’s involved in restoring this species as part of the landscape, as a wild animal, and that is really exciting,” Locke said.
But Locke thinks the animals well adapt well.
“I don’t think the challenges for this herd are very large, because we know from the archeological record that bison were in this park for over 10,000 years.… I think it’s going to go very, very well, because it’s a native species in its native habitat.”