BANFF – The last of 10 pregnant bison has given birth to a calf in Banff’s backcountry.
Parks Canada officials say the new calf, which was spotted for the first time at the end of September, joins nine other calves.
“They have a long winter ahead of them, but so far, they are showing us that they have adapted to life in the wilderness and are ready for the challenges that lay ahead,” according to a statement from Parks Canada.
Banff’s herd now consists of 10 adult females, four adult bulls, 10 yearlings, and 10 calves, for a total of 34 animals.
In mid-summer, Banff’s reintroduced bison herd was released from a fenced pasture into a 1,200 square kilometre reintroduction zone covering the Panther and Dormer valleys on the eastern slopes.
The main herd has since spent most of its time in the Snow Creek Valley, grazing, bedding and raising calves at high alpine lakes and on mountain slopes, but last month was gently herded right back to where they started using stockmanship techniques.
Encouraged by Parks staff on foot, horseback and helicopter, the herd travelled south towards the Panther Valley again, an area that offers some of the best fall and winter grazing for the animals.
Parks Canada says it will continue to keep an eye on the herd this winter.
“We are also monitoring a bull that explored a nearby valley within Banff National Park in early September,” according to the agency’s bison blog.
“Thanks to steep terrain and with a little encouragement from our bison wranglers, he was turned around and headed southward.”
Some tough decisions have already been made as part of the $6.4 million bison reintroduction project.
One bull was killed and another relocated to a pasture in Waterton Lakes National Park after they travelled too far eastward beyond the park boundary to within a day’s walk from private lands.
The reintroduction plan commits to keeping bison out of these private lands.
In 2022, Parks Canada will assess whether to continue or abandon the project.
For thousands of years, plains bison roamed the plains of North America. Their numbers were as large as 30 million, but bison nearly went extinct in the 19th Century within a single human lifetime due to overhunting and slaughter.