Tourism Week: Wanuskewin Bison
It’s one of our favourite weeks of the year! Tourism week! This Tourism week we are working with our partners to show a more holistic view of who they are, and how they support our community! We hope after this week that you will have a better understanding of Tourism’s role in our community!
We have been talking a lot about the bison at Wanuskewin, and today we wanted to share just a snippet of how bringing the bison back will restore the natural ecosystem of the grasslands.
Bison are a keystone species and their return to the grasslands will affect every aspect of the ecosystem.
Photo borrowed from Wanuskewin Instagram
Doctor Ernie Walker says, “the story starts in the soil”. Before the bison could return the team at Wanuskewin researched the soil and worked on restoring the land by seeding natural grasses. As the bison move from where they wintered to the different pastures their hooves will aerate the soil and continue to spread these natural grass seeds.
Their dung will attract dung beetles which do so much for soil health, including aerating it further and increasing water infiltration.
When the bison wallow they will create little dents in the ground which will collect rainwater and moisture creating a place for amphibians and reptiles to live.
In turn, the birds and the mammals will find their way back as well. Doctor Ernie Walker says that the return of the bison has set the stage for this part of the grasslands to return to the state it was in the 1880s, although it will be a long process.
Photo: Wanuskewin Heritage Park
Right now, we are in very early stages. There are currently 15 bison at Wanuskewin but the ultimate goal is to carefully grow that number to 50. The current heard is made up of very special animals. They are descendants from two heard that lived in these grasslands during the 1880s.