February 7, 2017

Bison are Back in Banff!

In late January, at the Ice Magic competition in Lake Louise, one team of carvers had the prescience to sculpt a life-size bison in clear ice. I looked at that frozen figure, and thought to myself, "in just a few weeks, you are going to come to life!"

On February 1, 16 bison from Elk Island National Park were airlifted into the Panther Valley, in the wilderness heart of Banff, and released into their paddock. Bison are back!

Bison being released in Banff National Park last week.  Photo courtesy of Parks Canada
Many Rocky Mountain visitors remember the days of the bison paddock near the town of Banff, but this time things are different. This herd will be released into the wild once they've acclimatized to the landscape. Most of the bison are females, and they will have calves this spring, adding new blood to the fledgling herd. After another crop of bison calves in May of 2018, the population will have doubled, and the bison will be released from the paddock to roam in the centre of the park. They'll be the first free-roaming bison in the park in 140 years.

It's exciting stuff, and feels very appropriate for 2017: Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday this year, and this is Banff's birthday present to the ecology of the country.

Here's a few highlights from CTV's coverage of last week's bison relocation.