Plains bison were reintroduced into Banff National Park in March 2015.
For those unable to watch embedded see here.
In the mid-1800s the majority of Plains Bison had been eliminated from the continent except for a few free ranging herds. They have always had a role in the ecosystem by their creation and maintenance of grasslands and meadows through grazing and physical disturbance of the ground. Bison are also a food source to predators.
The First Nations and pioneers benefited from the bison in years past. This reintroduction will assist the cultural reconnection which has been lost for over a century.
A long-term maximum population for Banff will be in the range of 600 – 1,000 individuals. To protect the initial relocation area it will only be accessed by established trails on foot or on horseback. For those who venture too closely the bison can create safety risks such as human fatalities. They weigh 450-900 kilograms, are agile for their size and capable of speeds up to 70 kilometres an hour. The areas of “the Panther and Red Deer River valleys, and the Fairholme Bench area of the lower Bow Valley” are locations that have the appropriate range habitat to support the bison.
The first phase of the reintroduction includes placing 30-50 bison in a temporary soft release paddock in the Panther-Dormer River area in the summer/fall. These plains bison will come from the herd at Elk Island National Park. The phasing in period will be over the next five years and beyond. Currently the Dormer River Valley is closed for prescribed fired burnings which will enhance new vegetation growth for the plains bison to be placed there.
This is exciting as it has been quite some time that Banff National Park has had the plains bison available to the public. During some of my early visits to Banff in childhood (late 1950s-1962), I recall seeing the plains bison in the various paddocks.