While not strictly agriculture, this story is one which intrigued me immediately upon reading about it.
Bison have been reintroduced to Banff National Park after a 140-year absence.
Sixteen wild Plains bison were released into the park’s Panther Valley, Feb. 1, where they will be initially confined to a small acreage pasture where they can be monitored by Parks Canada for 16 months as the animals acclimatize.
If nothing unusual arises the bison will be released to the wild in June. The area of the release is some 1,200 sq. mile zone along the eastern slopes of the Rockies within the park, where they will interact with other native species.
This effort is simply one designed to bring bison back to a range where they were once dominant before man came along and nearly wiped bison off the map.
“American Bison once numbered in the millions, perhaps between 25 million and 60 million by some estimates, and they were possibly the most numerous large land animal on earth. However, by the late 1880s, they had been hunted to near extinction throughout North America,” details Wikipedia.
The destruction of the massive herds might be one of the greatest massacres of a wild species in human history, a history spotted with man-forced extinctions. If anyone is interested in such things I suggest they delve into the mass harvesting of the now long extinct passenger pigeon where numbers such as “a single seller of ammunition provided three tons of powder and 16 tons (32,000 lb) of shot during a nesting” and “a single hunter is reported to have sent three million birds to eastern cities during his career” among the stories detailed on Wikipedia.
But, back to bison and the good news from Banff. Managing wild populations of bison within park areas is not a new thing.
“The Yellowstone Park bison herd in Yellowstone National Park is probably the oldest and largest public bison herd in the United States,” details Wikipedia. “… The Yellowstone Park bison herd was estimated in 2015 to be 4,900 bison. The bison in the Yellowstone Park bison herd are American bison of the Plains bison subspecies. Yellowstone National Park may be the only location in the United States where free-ranging bison were never extirpated, since they continued to exist in the wild and were not re-introduced, as has been done in most other bison herd areas. Other large free-ranging, publicly controlled herds of bison in the United States include the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Kansas (2100 to 2600 animals), Wind Cave bison herd (approximately 350 animals), the Antelope Island bison herd (approximately 550 to 700 animals), the Henry Mountains bison herd in Utah (400 to 500 animals), and the National Bison Range herd near Flathead Lake, Montana (400 animals).”
The Banff bison actually originated at another park in Canada coming from Elk Island National Park.
While from a farm perspective bison have become a niche opportunity, from a larger perspective it is gratifying to see efforts to re-establish wild populations.
Calvin Daniels is Editor of Yorkton This Week.