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 with Rob Miskosky

A Growing Problem?

It had to be expected. Surely nobody really believed that all of the bison released into Banff National Park were going to stick and stay within the 1,200 km2 reintroduction zone.

Plains bison from Elk Island National Park were reintroduced into the Panther River Valley in February 2017, about 40 kilometres north of Banff. The herd now numbers 32 after the birth of several calves.
How long before a cull of the Banff bison herd takes place?

The herd was allowed to roam free on July 29 of this year and sure enough, less than a week later, two bulls that had never before been unfenced wandered off in separate directions from the herd.
The herd should number 33 animals but one of two bulls that wandered out of the reintroduction zone was euthanized because it was moving towards private grazing land. Parks Canada said in a news release that the bull could pose a safety risk to the public and to livestock.
Apparently, Parks Canada tried several different options to coax the bulls back to the park but were unsuccessful in their attempts. Smoke from fires burning in BC hampered helicopter efforts and presented a risk to Parks staff, so a decision was made to euthanize the bull that was heading towards private land.
The second bull that wandered off was immobilized and transported to a bison paddock in Waterton Lakes National Park where it still remains. It isn’t known what will become of that bull but a Parks official said the decision was made to place the bull in Waterton because returning it to an area that it had already fled wouldn’t be a good idea, “in case he tried to leave again and convince others to go with him.”
A third bull has also left the herd and is about five kilometres away. Parks officials are keeping an eye on that bull but it hasn’t left the park boundaries... yet. One has to assume this will be an ongoing problem with the bulls and most likely an expensive one.
After the bull that headed in the wrong direction was euthanized, the Alberta Wilderness Association starting calling for the wild bison to be given “wildlife status”, much like deer, elk and moose have. Not having wildlife status or considered domesticated animals, if somebody wanted to shoot one that wandered out of the park, legally, they could. And a rancher outside of the park boundaries would most likely be inclined to do exactly that, as the bison could pose a safety and health risk to both humans and cattle, as well as cause damage to fences and other private property.
On August 21, a ministerial order by Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips was signed giving the Banff bison herd the same status as wildlife should they wander out of the park and onto public land. An amendment to the Wildlife Act has created a 239 km2 area called the Upper Red Deer River Special Bison Area that stretches northwest of the park to land around the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch.
Shooting a bison from the Banff herd could now result in a fine of up to $50,000 or incarceration.
In an August 2, 2018: Free to Roam – bison are released into Banff’s backcountry post on the Banff National Park Bison Blog, it’s written, “It’s official. Bison have returned to the backcountry of Banff National Park. After an absence of over a century, bison will once again roam the valleys of Canada’s first national park. They will carve new paths and seek new adventures. They will cross rivers and meet wolves and bears. And most importantly, they will call Banff their home.”
Well, maybe some, but certainly not all.
At some point, one would have to assume a hunting season on public lands will be implemented to cull what will be a forever-growing Banff bison herd.
Hunters can rejoice in that fact.

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

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