Will bison ever return to Banff?

Could Banff National Park become home to bison once again? 

That’s the question currently up for discussion. On Monday Parks Canada released a draft plan to reintroduce the animal to the park. 

The proposal involves a five-year plan that recommends introducing a small heard of young bison into the east-central region of the park, which is considered relatively remote. The plan makes clear that the 425-square-kilometre enclosure around the Panther and Dormer Rivers would offer suitable habitat for the 30 to 50 bison, while still allowing park officials to monitor the animals’ movements. 

Exactly why does Parks Canada want to do this? It cites ecological restoration, inspiring discovery, and cultural reconnection as the main reasons.

And while bison were once found in what is now Banff National Park, they haven’t roamed freely in the region since before the park was built more than 126 years ago. A lot has changed since then. Today, the park contains a town, a village, a national highway, a railway, and countless tourist facilities that attract more than 3 million visitors annually. 

But Parks Canada isn’t the only proponent for bringing the bison back. The Eleanor Luxton Historical Foundation has also played a part in the proposal. According to the foundation’s site: “The bison is one of the world’s iconic species that enjoys a history rich in archaeology, palaeontology, story, legend, and oral and documentary history.” 

And while officials with the foundation certainly support the proposal, deeming it a “first-class plan,” it’s now up to the public to provide feedback.

Officials have already met with provincial representatives, municipal governments, stakeholders, organizations, and even technical experts for their feedback. Public input on proposal is being accepted until November 1st.

To learn more about the plan and make comments, visit parkscanada.gc.ca/banff-bison.