In January, American Prairie Reserve staff headed to Canada’s Elk Island National Park to start the physical process of moving bison calves to Reserve lands in northeastern Montana. The Park’s finite habitat and forage mean that animals have to be removed from the population over time, and the Reserve has been a recipient of nearly 300 Elk Island bison since 2009.
After sorting the bison and conducting a series of required disease tests, the calves remained in quarantine at the Park until they were approved to be brought into the United States. On Friday, March 14th, they arrived at their new home on American Prairie Reserve.
Warm spring weather in the days leading up to the arrival created a challenging and muddy situation. Reserve team members worked quickly to create a trail for the bison-filled truck to safely arrive at the handling facility located 40 miles from paved roads.
Neighbors like this black-tailed prairie dog were curious about all of the commotion as the truck appeared on the horizon.
By the early afternoon, a truck carrying 73 bison calves arrived on American Prairie Reserve. The efforts of Reserve staff to clear the way were a success as the truck made it’s way to the handling facility for unloading.
The journey from Canada was finally complete, and the calves took their first steps in Montana.
Some calves were a little more enthusiastic than others…
… and as every animal moved through the chutes of the handling facility, biologists and veterinarians checked each one.
The 73 calves celebrated their arrival with a feast in the corrals that will be their temporary holding place for the next month. After another round of health monitoring and disease testing, these new additions will run through open gates onto the prairie. Until then, Reserve staff will watch over them each day as the bison become familiar with the sounds and smells of Montana.
As the prairie starts to come alive with green growth and the return of migratory birds, the Elk Island calves will have a festive homecoming. In mid-April, they will join the 270 animals that already roam on the Sun Prairie region of the Reserve — as well as the estimated 100 red-headed calves to be born this spring. Much of the APR herd consists of Elk Island animals from previous relocations, making the release of these 73 bison a triumphant family reunion unlike anything else in the world.