In late February, I paid a visit to Elk Island National Park. It had been a while since I had been to the park, and even longer since visiting the park in winter.
For those not familiar with this National Park, it is located about a half hour’s drive east of Edmonton. It is the only entirely fenced-in National Park in Canada. As the name might suggest, it was originally established, in 1906, to protect one of Canada’s few remaining herds of elk. According to the park’s website, “more than 42 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, five species of amphibians, one reptile species and two species of fish live in Elk Island National Park’s diverse landscape of forests, lakes, wetlands and grasslands.”
The park has, perhaps, become best known for it’s herds of bison. By the early 1900, North America’s largest land mammal, once roaming the plains in the millions, had been hunted nearly to extinction. Between 1907 and 1912, 700 bison were shipped by train to Elk Island National Park. For over a century, bison have been protected and flourished in the safe sanctuary provided by this National Park.
Elk Island is home to two sub-species of bison: Wood Bison and Plains Bison. Wood Bison are adapted to northern climates and once roamed across Alaska, Northwest Territories, and Northern BC and Alberta. At Elk Island NP they are found exclusively south of Highway 16, which bisects the park. Plains Bison were once found across the Great Plains of North America in herds of 10, 000 to 100,000 or more. In this National Park they are found north of Highway 16. It is this latter part of the park that I visited on this trip.
While I usually find bison when I visit the park, it’s not guaranteed. Sometimes they have roamed to more inaccessible parts of the park. On this morning I was lucky, finding quite a few where I could get close enough to get some good shots with a telephoto lens. These are wild animals so I always treat them with respect, both for their safety and mine.
All of the bison shown below are Plains Bison.
At one point I came across a small pack of coyotes attempting to harass the bison. While they were aware of the coyotes, the bison didn’t appear to be paying much mind to them. After a bit of time the coyotes dispersed, with one running fairly closely past me.
It was fun to visit the park again to see the bison. They definitely are majestic beasts! I’m sure I will get back to the park again over the summer.