Now hiring: Wanuskewin Heritage Park looking for bison manager
“They’ve co-evolved with this environment,” said Brady Highway, the park’s resource management coordinator.
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“They’ve had a profound impact on the environment and the ecosystems of the great plains.”
Bringing the bison home is an important part of Wanuskewin’s multi-million dollar renewal, but another critical piece to the project is hiring someone to manage the future herd – one who understands the bison on a deeper level.
“What we are talking about is Indigenous leadership and conservation to restore some of those land relationships,” Highway said.
“Be able to communicate with them in a way that’s respectful to their space, and also just making sure that our visitors remain safe and are not harassing those animals.”
Highway said bison can be aggressive and weigh more than 1,000 pounds. The role of bison manager would be to not only care for the massive animals but monitor the health of the range – ultimately dictating the long-term direction of the park.
“We’re talking about re-introducing a cultural herd,” he said. “Part of that is sharing with the rest of the world our cultural connection to this animal.”
The park plans to start with six young, female bison. The breeding will be controlled and once the grassland restoration begins to take hold, the herd will be introduced into their first pen – eventually roaming a total area of 240 hectares. Highway calls the restoration approach “holistic.”
“That’ll be phased in over the next five years and as those paddocks become ready for bison, we’ll let them out of the introductory pens and phase in the rest of the restoration effort.”
The animals are coming from Parks Canada and could be here as early as December, depending on how quickly Wanuskewin is able to staff the bison manager position. It’s a process the park said it’s not going to rush.
“We are going to make sure we have the right candidate,” Highway explained.
As many as 50 bison are expected to call Wanuskewin home.
To keep up with the progress on the renewal project, visit Wanuskewin online.
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