The approximately 44,800 km² national park was established as early as 1922 to protect the almost exterminated bison and comprises the largest contiguous and untouched prairie area in North America. Most of the park is in the Province of Alberta and the rest in the Northwest Territories. Today the population fluctuates between 5000 and 6000 bison. The largest predator in the national park is the black bear.
Wood Buffalo National Park: Facts
|Official title:||Wood Buffalo National Park|
|Natural monument:||1922 establishment of the national park, expansion of the area in 1926; including parts of the Whooping Crane Summer Range and the Peace Athabasca Delta, the world’s largest freshwater river delta; Canada’s largest national park with a total area of 44 807 km²|
|Location:||west of Fort Smith and the Slave River, border area of Alberta and the Northwest Territories|
|Meaning:||Protected area for the largest wild herd of bison in the world and the whooping cranes, which are threatened with extinction|
|Flora and fauna:||Forest with gray spruce and black spruce, bench pine and American larch, balsam poplar along watercourses, tundra vegetation on the plateau, prairie landscape with grass species such as Calamagrostis canadensis; In addition to more than 5000 bison, created from the “crossing” of forest and prairie bones, another 46 species of mammals such as black bear, caribou (Western Canadian wood reindeer), elk, beaver, Canadian lynx, gray wolf, arctic fox; 227 species of birds such as the brown-capped tit and snowy owl, breeding ground for almost 220 whooping crane pairs in summer, snow and Canada geese at times in the Peace-Athabasca Delta, as well as 25 species of ducks and all 7 North American species of grebes|
The last paradise of the bison
The panorama from the plane initially gives the impression of a wooded northern lowland, which, broken by large, sediment-laden rivers, extends seemingly limitless to the horizon. At the confluence of the Peace River and the Athabasca River, a huge delta spreads unmistakably, the world’s largest delta off the coast, an intricate labyrinth of shallow lakes and swamps, connected by a network of meandering waterways. A closer look reveals a surprising variety of landscapes, consisting of lowlands rich in water, forested, kilometer-long sand dunes, prairies, salt flats, marshes and mountains towering up to 400 meters.
The Wood Buffalo National Park is larger than Switzerland and yet hardly accessible with a single access road. In this loneliness of the north, many rare and endangered animal species can be found, including the whooping cranes, which are threatened with extinction, a refuge, huge bird colonies nest, flocks of whooper swans and snow geese rest on their flight in the summer.
According to politicsezine, the largest national park in Canada is also home to the numerically strongest bison herd in the world. This herd roams freely and over considerable distances across the vast expanses of the northern Canadian prairie. The largest land mammals in North America are usually active mornings and evenings. During the day they bathe in the dust to get rid of pesky parasites and chase away insects, or they lie ruminating in the shade. Only at the mating season in midsummer do bisons show their spirited side. Then the bulls’ mighty heads, studded with short, pointed horns, clash loudly against each other – a largely bloodless battle for the ranking in the herd and the choice of the most coveted bison cow.
When the wild cattle bison were facing extinction at the beginning of the 20th century, the Wood Buffalo National Park was founded to protect the remaining herd of wood bison. At the same time, a herd of 709 animals of the somewhat smaller and lighter prairie bison, which the Canadian government had bought privately in 1907, found a new home in Wainwright Bison Park. The herd, which quickly grew to several thousand heads, was transferred to the Wood Buffalo National Park a few years later because of the threat of overgrazing of the land and the tuberculosis diseases of the animals, but also because of simmering conflicts with neighboring ranchers.
Only in the course of time did the serious ecological consequences of this decision become apparent. Forest and prairie bisons mixed, so that purebred forest bison survived only sporadically. In addition, the existing herd was infected with bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis, which the resettled prairie bones were infected with. For years, conservationists have been in a constant conflict of interest with ranchers who fear that brucellosis and tuberculosis will be passed on to their healthy cattle. This fear is justified, as tuberculosis was found in more than half of the bison caught as part of the research program.
The native Indians, Cree, Chipewyan and Metis, who live, hunt and fish there in the area of today’s national park, want to protect their interests. Their long-term rights of use were retained when the national park was established. In 1986, the Canadian federal government also returned certain land rights within the national park to the indigenous people.