Sixteen bison have been transported 400km from Elk Island National Park to Banff National Park.
The animals have been absence from Banff for over 100 years and mostly pregnant females are being reintroduced.
“Not only are bison a keystone species and an icon of Canada’s history, said Catherine McKenna, minister of environment and climate change, “they are an integral part of the lives of indigenous peoples.”
“By returning plains bison to Banff National Park, Parks Canada is taking an important step towards restoring the full diversity of species and natural processes to the park’s ecosystems.”
Watch a video of the reintroduction:[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNxmkf7Uz3w width:623 height:360]
The bison at Elk Island National Park are known for their high genetic integrity and long standing healthy status (free from brucellosis and tuberculosis).
The 16 chosen bison were kept in quarantine for three weeks and underwent health testing, before being loaded into custom modified shipping containers.
The shipping containers were driven overnight to a ranch near Banff National Park, and then airlifted by helicopter to a pasture where the animals were released.
Bison have been reintroduced to Banff National Park © Parks Canada
The bison will be monitored by Parks Canada staff, who are hoping to release them into the wider reintroduction zone of the park in 2018.
The reintroduction is part of a five-year pilot project which aims to restore the wild bison population of Banff National Park.
Bison were almost hunted into extinction during the 19th century, despite being widespread across Mexico to Canada.