Bison back in Banff. Burgers, anyone?

Hunting the animals is perfectly legal in Alberta

Bison back in Banff. Burgers, anyone?

Photograph by Tim Smith

It appears wild bison will roam in Banff once again, now that federal Environment Minister Peter Kent’s proposal that the four-legged bovines be reintroduced to Banff National Park has been accepted by federal officials. Bison are a popular tourist fixture of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, which may be one reason why our government is keen on bringing them back to their old stomping grounds in Banff: some say their presence will increase interest in the park. There is, however, a good reason why they were removed in the first place, and why their reintroduction isn’t as easy as it sounds.

In 1997, Banff’s captive herd never got a chance to “flourish” as intended because its paddock interfered severely with the migration patterns of other wildlife in the area. The bison were removed from the park as a result, then auctioned off. And back in the 1970s—it seems the bison have an extensive history of bad luck in the region—a group of 30 Jasper-based bison wandered out of the park and were killed (some presumably shot by hunters to be made into bison burgers). Hunting is a big concern for bison lovers, as the International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed them as a “near-threatened” species, but hunting the animals is not entirely illegal in Alberta. According to Maurice Nadeau, former president of the Alberta Fish and Game Association, “Any hunting opportunity [in Alberta] would be welcome, particularly an animal with the size and stature of a bison.” So while it appears that Banff’s only prospect of a successful bison resurrection will be of the free-range variety (i.e. paddock-free), Alberta’s burger-hungry hunters may cause Peter Kent to reconsider his policy.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.