Bison Update Spring 2013
Parks Canada and Explore (explore.org) are teaming up to bring you live video feed of bison on the Canadian Prairie in Grasslands National Park. Cameras have been installed in the West Block of Grasslands National Park near a known watering hole and Black-Tailed Prairie Dog colony close to the Ecotour road. Viewers can go to the explore.org website and view the video feed from the comfort of their own homes or smartphones. A recent fire in the park means the grass will be greening up, attracting the bison to graze in the areas around the cameras.
To see the live cameras of in the park, visit: www.explore.org/bison
Some information on the reintroduction of the bison to the park can be found below.
Plains bison (Bison bison bison) were re-introduced in Grasslands National Park in December 2005, after 120 years of absence. This vast, wind swept prairie evolved with bison, drought, periodic fire and variable continental climate. Prior to European settlement, the prairies were home to millions of free-roaming bison. By the 1880's many changes had occurred on the landscape and the large herds that once roamed were nearly gone. Through consultation with stakeholders, neighbours and specialists, bison were reintroduced to the park and are now thriving.
- The initial herd consisted of 71 bison, including 30 male calves, 30 female calves and 11 yearlings.
- These bison arrived from Elk Island National Park, which has been the 'seed source' of Canadian bison for many years as they maintain an extensive health database, have no cattle nor wood bison genes and are free from disease.
- The bison were released into a 16.2-hectare (40 acre) holding facility where they remained over winter to allow time to become adapted to their new surroundings. On May 24, 2006, the bison were released into the largest parcel of the West Block, which totals approximately 181 square kilometres (70 square miles). This portion was chosen due to its large size, natural water source and access for park visitors.
- The public were invited to celebrate the bison release on that day and now are able to view bison in their natural habitat.
- The results of the spring count in April 2013, suggest that there are approximately 330 adult bison and 40 calves in the park
Bison were reintroduced to restore a 'grazing regime' of large herbivores in a portion of the West Block of the park. Bison are symbolic of the prairies and provide visitors a greater diversity of native species to view when visiting the park. The reintroduction will contribute to the Canadian and greater North American restoration efforts of bison. Bison are listed in the 2010 Park Management Plan as the preferred large herbivore species for grazing as an ecological process in the mixed grass prairie. Domestic grazers will be used in other sections of the park to achieve ecological objectives where bison are not suited. Grazing in the park will complement the stewardship activities on the surrounding ranch lands and provide habitats for a variety of wildlife species.
The re-introduction of bison into Grasslands National Park is an excellent example of the three pillars for our work at Parks Canada - protecting the natural and cultural resources of the park, providing innovative educational opportunities and facilitating memorable experiences where visitors can connect with and enjoy this truly unique landscape.
Baby bison near its mother© Parks Canada
Various equipment that will be used to install the video cameras at the bison watering hole in Grasslands National Park.© Parks Canada
Recent picture of a bison calf in Grasslands National Park© Parks Canada
Getting the solar panels installed that will help power the video cameras that will record the bison in Grasslands National Park© Parks Canada
Bison and You!
Plains Bison © Parks Canada / Johane Janelle
Visitors to Grasslands National Park will now see Plains Bison thunder across this vast, wind-swept prairie, that was once their native homelands. Bison are majestic and powerful - the very elements that attract us to view these wild animals. While bison are not usually aggressive, they are unpredictable and can become dangerous. Please use caution and observe the following safety tips while viewing this great animal in the park!
In Your Car:
- If you encounter bison along the roadway, drive slowly and they will eventually move. Do not honk, become impatient or proceed too quickly. Bison attacks on vehicles are rare, but can happen.
- Bison may spook if you get out of your vehicle. Therefore, remain inside or stay very close.
A herd of bison and horseback rider © Parks Canada / Carol Masecar
On Foot or Horseback:
- Never startle bison. Always let them know you are there.
- Never try to chase or scare bison away. It is best to just cautiously walk away.
- Always try to stay a minimum of 100 meters (approximately the size of a football field) from the bison.
Please take extra caution as bison may be more aggressive:
- During the rutting season (mid July-mid August) as bulls can become more aggressive during this time.
- After bison cows have calved. Moms may be a little over-protective during this time.
© Wes Olson
- When cycling near bison, as cyclists often startle unknowing herds.
- When hiking with pets. Dogs may provoke a bison attack and should be kept on a leash.
- On hot spring days when bison have heavy winter coats.
- If they display any of the following signs:
- Shaking the head
- Short charges or running toward you
- Loud snorting
- Raising the tail.
Bison are the largest indigenous land mammal in North America. Bison bulls can often weigh one tonne and reach a shoulder height of two metres. Bison are agile animals that can quickly accelerate to speeds of 48 - 56 km per hour and cover great distances in a short period of time (National Park Service, 2002). Although bison may not detect stationary objects at close range, they can perceive motion at great distances. Bison also have excellent hearing and a keen sense of smell.