Through excavations in Banff and area, they have found Bison skulls and bones, dating back some 4,000 year ago. So without a doubt the Bison was here long before the white man, Canadian Pacific Railways and any tourist! They are truly a native species to the Canadian Rockies.
In 1873 a Church was built in the Bow Valley by Reverend MacDougall, he chose Morley because of the presence of bison and rich pastures. This time frame would see the continuation of the massive extermination of the Bison in North America.
In 1898, then called Rocky Mountains National Park, fenced in 500 acres as “buffalo park” to receive a gift from a Toronto Lawyer of three formerly wild bison. Three months later a Donald Smith shipped thirteen more bison to Banff which included the great “Sir Donald”, the largest and oldest bull surviving from the wild herds. More attempts was made to purchase the Pablo Buffalo herd in Montana. About 708 buffalo were shipped to Canada, mostly to Elk Island National Park, Alberta. In 1911 thirty three did make their way to Banff’s “buffalo park”.
In 1997 the Banff National Park management had the Buffalo Paddock fence removed and shipped off the captive herd.
January 28,2012 the minister responsible for national parks, Peter Kent announced plans for Bison to be re-introduced back into Banff National Park. However this will take time as the process will first require consultations with the provincial government, native groups and ranchers before opening up the process to public talks. Since there is no timeline set for completing the consultations and moving the bison in, one must wonder if it will ever happen. There are too many complex issues (wether they belong or not) and the impact on other species, landscapes, communities and the desire to seduce the tourist.