Banff National Park marked Earth Day in the best way possible this year. A herd of wild bison that were recently reintroduced to the park in February welcomed the arrival of a new calf. The newborn represents the first bison calf born in the park’s backcountry in 140 years.
The first calf was born on Earth Day, April 22, and two more calves have been born since then.
According to CBC Radio Canada:
Officials also hope that the calving bison will help tether the plains animals to the area. “It’s a huge step in this process,” said [Bill Hunt, a resource conservation manager with Parks Canada].
“We know … that where a young female drops her calf it really ties her to that space, even if she was born somewhere else.”
While many remember what Parks Canada calls a “display herd” of bison housed in a paddock near the Banff townsite until 1997, this new herd represents a return to wild animals.
This is the first calving season the bison have been in the park. The release is part of a five-year pilot program to see how the herd affects the park’s ecosystem. Next summer during the second calving season, the bison will be allowed to roam through the eastern part of the park and eventually — we hope — throughout the entire park as the herd integrates with the native plants and wildlife.