BANFF, Alta. — Parks Canada says a second bison bull that wandered out of Banff National Park has been captured and relocated to a paddock in southern Alberta, unlike the first that had to be destroyed last week.
Officials said both bison left a 1,200-square-kilometre reintroduction zone separately in early August and had been moving on provincial land northward and eastward of the national park.
They said the animals posed a safety risk to the public and to livestock. They killed one of the bulls last week and removed the second bull from the area on Sunday.
"The large bull was successfully captured and immobilized and flown (by helicopter) to a horse trailer, which allowed us to transport it to a bison paddock in Waterton Lakes National Park," Bill Hunt, resource conservation manager with Banff National Park, said during a media teleconference late Monday afternoon.
"The bull is in the winter pasture in that park and is not visible to the public."
Hunt explained they weren't able to capture the first bison last week.
"Our options for recapturing the bull ... were compromised by various factors including the speed at which the bison was moving eastward and the availability of key resources such as staff and helicopters," said Hunt.
Due to a wildfire in the area and many others throughout Western Canada, he said there was limited availability of helicopters and the smoke made it difficult to see and track the animal with telemetry.
"These factors also presented a risk to staff safety," said Hunt.
Officials said the rest of the Banff herd was edging northward toward the Red Deer River, heading on the same path as the two bulls that left the park.
But they never left the reintroduction area and Hunt said helicopters and horses were used to stop them.
Sixteen plains bison from Elk Island National Park were reintroduced to the park in February 2017 into the remote Panther River Valley, about 40 kilometres north of Banff.
Ten of the females had calves last year and nine of them have now given birth again this year.
The herd was allowed to roam free on July 29.
Hunt said a third bull has been wandering near the edge of the park, but he hasn't left.
"We are pleased that the remaining 33 bison have settled back in the heart of the reintroduction zone," he said.
Plains bison are an iconic part of Canada's history, having freely roamed in the Rockies, filling an important need for the livelihoods of First Nations people and early settlers.
They disappeared from the area due to overhunting before the national park was created in 1885.
Plains bison on provincial land aren't considered wildlife in Alberta, but the province's environment minister has said the Banff herd will be protected by the end of the month with a special order.
The Canadian Press