'This is a big deal:' Wanuskewin welcomes new herd of 11 bison
SASKATOON -- It’s been nearly 150 years since bison disappeared from the Saskatoon area - and Wanuskewin Heritage Park has now reintroduced a small herd.
"For thousands of years there's been millions of bison on this land that had an absolutely integral part of the history and livelihood of the people in the Prairies," Mayor Charlie Clark said.
The herd consists of six females which arrived from Grasslands National Park in December, in addition to a mature bull and four pregnant females with ties to Yellowstone National Park.
All 11 are pure, healthy, and diverse Plains bison, according to Wanuskewin.
By travelling from Yellowstone in America to Wanuskewin in Canada, the bison are among the first animals to make the journey in over 150 years, according to Dr. Ernie Walker, an anthropologist, archaeologist, and a founding member at Wanuskewin.
"There hasn't been Yellowstone animals cross the line, maybe one or two in private facilities, but those animals haven’t crossed the medicine line, the 49th parallel, in 150 years. This is a big story."
Adding the bison to the park brings Wanuskewin a step closer to achieving United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site designation.
"We're working with the government of Saskatchewan to make sure we get all the check boxes ticked off," CEO Darlene Brander said.
"We need to ensure we engage with the municipal, provincial, and federal governments, and were continuing on that timeline."
The plan is to slowly grow the herd and protect the park as the city is set to expand around it.
"Our vision is, in 10 to 20 years from now it will be a very significant urban park within the city limits of Saskatoon. It will be a living park because we have a herd of some 50 animals here," local businessman and Wanuskewin donor Wayne Brownlee said after it was announced his foundation will be donating $5 million to the park.
The herd was introduced in December, giving them time to adjust to the move before they were shown to the public.