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Saskatchewan The Return of the Plains Bison

In Grasslands National Park, on a rolling stretch of prairie grassland, 72 purebred plains bison were released onto the land where their ancestors once flourished. The Park, on the Saskatchewan-Montana border, was established in 1988 to reserve one of the last and largest blocks of undisturbed mixed prairie grass habitat left in Canada.The bison were reintroduced mainly to restore a "grazing regime" in the park. The herd - 30 males, 30 females, 11 yearlings and one newborn calf - was brought from Elk Island National Park in north central Alberta last December, 2005. The Elk Island populations is considered the "seed source" of Canadian plains bison because it has no cattle or wood bison genes and is free of disease.Over the winter, the animals were kept in a 16 hectare pen to give them time to acclimatize and to accustom themselves to their new environment.

There are two separate sections of Grasslands Park. The animals are now being released into the 180 sq. km. west block, where a barbed wire fence nearly one and a half meters high has been built around the perimeter.

The fence was designed to allow the reasonable free flow of other wildlife while keeping the bison in the park. The west side of the park was chosen because it is larger than the east section and has better access for the public.This is the second shipment of Elk Island bison to southern Saskatchewan. Two years ago, 50 bison were relocated to the 5,200 hectare Old Man on His Back heritage and conservation area.

This area was originally a private ranch that was donated to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, a non-profit conservation group. The Old Man herd is reportedly doing well in its new home.On the day when the bison were released from their pen onto the open range, it was heralded as a reconciliation of sorts - returning the prairie to the way it was before European settlers came and nearly wiped out the large beasts.

A storyteller from the Poundmaker First Nation named Tootoosis, commented: "I know a lot of aboriginal people are feeling good today knowing that mistah' moostoos is running again in this part of the country". Mistah' moostoos is Cree for "big buffalo".He said that when he was a young boy, his father told him of an elder in the past who had forecast that the buffalo would one day disappear from the plains. He also foresaw that someday they would return again, when there was a better understanding within the people.Onlookers watched as the bison sauntered tentatively out of their enclosure, grazing a bit here and there, before galloping off toward the distant horizon.

Most who were there were in agreement that this is where the bison belong, not in a feedlot or someone's pasture.Prior to European settlement, millions of bison roamed freely on the Prairies of Canada and the United States, but with the settlers came a loss of habitat. The animals were also ruthlessly overhunted, sometimes killed only for their tongues or horns. By the late 1880s virtually all of them were gone.The name "bison" is described in Webster's as a four-legged bovine mammal with a shaggy mane and a humped back and the name is used interchangeably with buffalo, although the purists argue that is technically incorrect since true buffalo are native only to Asia.Bison, buffalo, mistah' moostoos, or "Monarch of the Plains", there are 72 of them once again roaming freely on the prairie grasslands where they have always belonged.

.Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Canada Vacation.Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Michael_Russell.

By: Michael Russell

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