Grasslands National Park sits along the United States border in southwestern Saskatchewan, roughly four hundred kilometres south of Saskatoon. The nine hundred square kilometre park is divided in two sections. The east block is filled with all sorts of fun, such as rattlesnakes, lightning sparked grass fires, black widow spiders, quicksand and a campsite. The badlands of the east block are considered the richest deposit of dinosaur fossils in the country. The west block has the same snakes, spiders and fires, plus it has bison - just under four hundred of them. The park is also home to a few endangered species, like the black-footed ferret, eastern yellow-bellied racer, greater short-horned lizard, shape-tailed grouse and the burrowing owl. In terms of Canadian national parks, this one is still in its infancy, as it was only officially proclaimed a national park in 2001 and the bison of the west block are even younger.
The plains bison of Grasslands National Park were introduced to their current digs in May 2006, after spending the winter in a small paddock in order to acclimatize to their new environment. The initial 72 very young bison came from Elk Island National Park in Alberta. For those unfamiliar with Elk Island, the bison there have been the “seed source” for most bison populations in Canada since 1967. What makes the plains bison of Elk Island special is what they’re missing - particularly disease and unwanted cattle and wood bison genes. The healthy herd multiplies quickly and with only a 136 square kilometre habitat, the population must be controlled, and translocating animals to create new herds elsewhere is the best option.
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