It’s been over a century since the thundering hooves of bison were last heard in the Saskatchewan area of the Canadian grasslands, but the birth of a wild calf is giving new hope to conservationists working to rebuild populations.
The calf was born on April 22 in the western boreal province of Saskatchewan in Wanuskewin Heritage Park, an Indigenous-run conservation area. The arrival has been described as historic by park authorities, but after consultation with a council of indigenous elders the decision was made not to name the calf.
“We feel humbled and blessed for the arrival the baby bison and for the herd that’s with it,” Wanuskewin Chief Executive Darlene Brander told The Guardian.
“The elders told us that because bison are the brothers and sisters of many Indigenous peoples across the land, it wouldn’t be appropriate to give the newborn a name.”
Bison numbers in North America rapidly collapsed during the 1800s as a result of overhunting, disease and habitat degradation. Numbers fell from as many as 60 million to fewer than 600 at one stage.
Plains bison were reintroduced to the prairies in December last year in a partnership between the Wanuskewin Heritage Park and Parks Canada with collaboration from the Wahpeton Dakota Nation. Six female calves from Grasslands National Park established the herd at Wanuskewin before being joined by a mature bull and four pregnant females from the United States.
Whilst the return of the bison to these lands is reason enough to celebrate, these animals will also provide regenerative benefits to one of the most endangered biomes in the world. The bison play an important role in restoring native grasslands by stirring topsoil and removing excess plant growth, as well as supplying important nutrients for growth through their manure and urine.
- Find out more about Parks Canada’s work on reintroducing plains bison to the Canadian prairies.
- Find out how you can support Australian native wildlife by getting involved in National Tree Day 2020.
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