The very first wild bison to roam Banff National Park in more than a century are airlifted into a remote valley in a “historic homecoming” aimed at re-establishing a thriving herd, Parks Canada said Monday.
While many remember what Parks Canada requires for a “display herd” of bison housed in a paddock near the Banff townsite until 1997, this new herd represents a yield to wild animals, eventually free to roam their surroundings.
The 16 bison mostly pregnant two year olds were loaded onto shipping containers on trucks at Elk Island National Park, about 35 kilometres east of Edmonton, and hauled to the park in the past week.
The shipping containers were ferried by helicopter over the slopes and lowered into a enclosed pasture in Panther Valley near Sundre around the eastern slopes of the park.
The bison were let out to the pasture, where they’ll stay for 16 months while being carefully tracked by Parks Canada using radio collars.
Eventually, in the summer of 2018, they’ll be published into a 1,200-square-kilometre place on the eastern slopes of the park, where they can socialize with other indigenous species, forage for food and also incorporate in the ecosystem.
Harvey Locke, a conservationist, author and trustee using the Eleanor Luxton Historical Foundation at Banff, deemed the afternoon a historic moment.
“This is a great day for Banff National Park.”
Local conservationists involved with the relocation said they were relieved that the moving process went smoothly after years of research, preparations and consultations with various groups.
The longer-term objective is to reestablish a brand fresh wild population of bison in Banff National Park and help the conservation of the creature nationally and globally.
Whilst conservation groups have applauded the idea, ranchers about the eastern slopes have criticized the plan. They are worried the bison might escape, damage property or spread disease to livestock.
“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.
Click to WATCH: Wild Bison Roam Banff National Park For 1st Time In More Than Century