Elk Island National Park of Canada

History Of The Herds - Plains Bison

Plains Bison
Plains Bison
© Parks Canada / EI9912310006, 1991/12/31

The plains bison in Elk Island National Park originate from several sources, although the majority of them came from the herd owned by Charles Allard and Michel Pablo of Ronan, Montana. His herd originated from four yearlings brought to the area by Samuel Walking Coyote. In addition to the descendants of these animals, 26 head were obtained from "Buffalo" Jones, who in turn obtained his animals from herds in Texas, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Once confined in the corrals, the bison were loaded onto trains for the journey North.
Once confined in the corrals, the bison were loaded onto trains for the journey North.
© Parks Canada / EI9912310009, 1991/12/31
By the early 1900s, this herd had grown more than 600 bison and the owners were faced with the loss of their grazing lands. The surviving partner, Michel Pablo, attempted to sell the herd to the American government. When that effort failed, he approached the Canadian government. During the years 1907 to 1909, a total of 377 plains bison were brought north to Elk Island National Park. This number included 16 animals from Banff National Park obtained from the Bedson, Corbin and Goodnight herds.

By autumn of 1909, there were an estimated 402 plains bison living within the confines of Elk Island from a variety of herds and genetic backgrounds. These bison were held in Elk Island while the fences around Buffalo National Park at Wainwright, Alberta, were being completed. Once this was done, the herd was gathered together and shipped to this new park. Attempts to capture the entire herd failed however, and about 45 plains bison remained in Elk Island to form the nucleus of today's population.

During the 1930s, the herd grew to levels exceeding 2400, but during recent decades it has been managed at pre-calving levels of around 450 head. Animals above this number are regarded as surplus and are sold by the park. Funds generated through the sale contribute to national parks.
By the 1880s only a few straggling herds remained. By the 1880s only a few straggling herds remained.
© Parks Canada / EI9912310009, 1991/12/31
In preparation for the move north to Canada, the Pablo-Allard herd was gathered together near Moise, Montana. In preparation for the move north to Canada, the Pablo-Allard herd was gathered together near Moise, Montana.
© Parks Canada / EI9912310008, 1991/12/31

Five kilometres north of Elk Island, near the town of Lamont, the bison were off loaded into a corral, then moved down an alley to the new park. Five kilometres north of Elk Island, near the town of Lamont, the bison were off loaded into a corral, then moved down an alley to the new park.
© Parks Canada / EI9912310010, 1991/12/31