Bison have been gone from Banff National Part for an incredibly long time. They were nearly hunted to extinction during the 19th century. But conservationists have been hard at work saving the animal, and now steps have been taken to release them back into the wild.
16 bison, mostly pregnant females, were helicoptered in from Elk Island National Park to the eastern slopes of Banff National Park. The transfer went off without a hitch and the bison seem to be enjoying the opportunity to roam free in their ancestral lands.
The bison will be closely watched by Parks Canada for the next year and a half. After that, they’ll be set free into a 460-square-mile area where they can be fully free.
Parks Canada hopes to re-establish a thriving new population of wild bison in the park and use the lessons from that experiment to assist in other conservation efforts around the world.
“This is a great day for Banff National Park,” said Canadian conservationist Harvey Locke in an interview with CBC. “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,”
“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,” he said. “I think it’s going to go very, very well, because it’s a native species in its native habitat.”