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Banff National Park considers next steps to reintroduce bison herds into backcountry

Banff, Alta. – Parks Canada officials are trying to decide what to do next after a draft report shows that a herd of Banff National Park’s plains bison has been reintroduced into the park’s backcountry.

According to a five-year project report published online earlier this week, the bison herd in Alberta’s national parks has more than 80 animals out of 16 animals moved from Elk Island National Park near Edmonton in 2017. grew to

Parks Canada declined a request for an interview, but reports on the project say it worked.

“This five-year pilot is Parks Canada’s latest effort to support the restoration of plains bison, and has identified Banff National Park as a viable location where bison can successfully exist in the landscape.” it says. “The five-year Bison Reintroduction Trial has laid a strong foundation of knowledge and practice to support long-term feasibility.

“These positive findings encourage bison to remain in the local landscape in a controlled and measured manner.”

According to the report, the bison remain healthy, exhibiting good growth rates with minimal mortality, are well adapted to mountain habitats, and mostly remain within the boundaries of the park.

In the summer of 2018, three bull bison wandered out of the park after being allowed to roam in the wild. One of them was shot by wildlife staff in a swamp outside the park, and his other two were taken to fenced pastures at Waterton Lakes National Park and Rocky Mountain House Historic Site. I went.

A fourth bull was reportedly strayed from the park and killed by wildlife staff in 2021. Also in 2019 and he is reported to have had two of his calves die of natural causes in 2020.

No other animals in the park were adversely affected, and there were no reports of threats to public safety or property damage, according to the report.

The project has also strengthened ties with several indigenous peoples with ceremonies to bless the animals and annual hikes for women and young people to see herds, he adds. also provided an educational program for

Until December 14th, Parks Canada is taking feedback from the public, including the Indigenous community, to see what they think of the project to determine next steps.

“This report, and our engagement with it, are expected to set the groundwork for bison management for the next decade and beyond,” said the draft report.

An Indigenous peoples-led report released in April said relying on traditional knowledge could help ensure the bison’s continued success in the park.

The Stoney Nakoda Nation, east of Banff, has made a cultural assessment that the bison is an important species to the indigenous people.

The team worked with elders, knowledge holders and youth to better understand bison habitats, behaviors and practices from an indigenous perspective. Bison have been found to help the Stoney Nakoda people reconnect with their traditional lands, migration routes, campsites, and hunting and gathering sites within the park.

The Aboriginal people’s report included 11 recommendations to ensure the continued success of the project and co-management of the bison herd.

These included continuing the program after pilot projects, holding ceremonies with First Nations at the start of each new phase, and allowing cultural monitoring fieldwork to continue. rice field.

Stoney Nakoda Nation also urged the reintroduction zone to be expanded to include the rest of the park, asking the park to allow the natives to harvest the animals if the herds grow too large.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on November 11, 2022.

— Colette Derworiz from Calgary

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Banff National Park considers next steps to reintroduce bison herds into backcountry

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