Banff National Park’s newly wild bison herd is getting used to life without fences.
Parks Canada staff recently released the small herd from a monitored pasture into 1200 sq km of backcountry wilderness as part of a five-year plan to re-establish the area’s bison population.
With two calves born since the release, there are now 33 bison roaming the park. The baby bison have a pretty special claim to fame -- they're Banff's first wild-born bison in over 140 years. And more babies are on the way. Parks Canada reports that the herd will grow to 36 if all the expectant cows successfully give birth.
“However, because they are no longer in a paddock, the births of free-roaming bison are more difficult to confirm,” the park said in an August 9 update.
Most of the animals are staying close to their initial release area, but a few of the more adventurous bulls have roamed a little farther, with one leaving the heart of the reintroduction zone to graze in a remote valley in provincial land northeast of the park.
Parks staff will continue to monitor the wandering bull. All of the adults in the group are outfitted with GPS collars. Parks Canada said that with a free-roaming herd, it's always possible that some are going to venture out of the release zone.
"Parks Canada is prepared for this situation and is working closely with the Province of Alberta, stakeholders and regional residents to return the bison bull to an appropriate area," the park said.
Signs have been posted at trailheads in the area advising visitors about traveling safely in bison country.
The plains bison herd started life in Elk Island National Park and were moved to Banff in 2017.