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
- Visitors to Grasslands National Park are able to view bison in their natural habitat
- Following the herd reduction in the fall of 2015, there are approximately 310 adult bison 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.
Please use caution when viewing bison in the park, please see our Visitor Safety information.
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.
Did you know?
Bison were absent from this landscape for over 120 years. As of 2005, Bison roam free in the West Block of Grasslands National Park.
How to identify:
Male or female? Look at the horns for size and shape. Bulls grow larger, more robust horns and ‘horn buds’ are visible on the male calf within the month they are born.
Where to view