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Prince Albert National Park of Canada

History of the Sturgeon River Plains Bison Population

Once numbering in the millions, plains bison were brought to near-extinction in the late 1800’s. In 1906, the Canadian government purchased one of the last remaining plains bison herds. Some of these animals founded the herd at Elk Island National Park (Alberta), which has become the source of most plains bison herds in Canada. Today there are nearly 1000 mature plains bison in three free-ranging herds in Canada.

In 1969, approximately 50 bison from Elk Island National Park were released in the Thunder Hills (north of Prince Albert National Park). The goal was to provide an additional meat source for First Nations people. The bison did not remain in the area; but travelled southwards. Most of the animals were relocated in small groups to other areas, and 10 to 22 of these animals remained in Prince Albert National Park to establish today’s Sturgeon River population. The population has grown steadily, and in 2006 reached 400 animals.

This is one of the few remaining populations of free ranging plains bison that exists within its historic range in Canada!

Map of the current range of the plains bison in PANP and the surrounding area.
Map of the current range of the plains bison in PANP and the surrounding area.
© E. Paul / Parks Canada