Syncrude’s wood bison herd, which is co-managed with the Fort McKay First Nation, has welcomed over 50 new bison this calving season.
“Right now we have more than 50 calves, a little less than a few other years, but fairly standard,” said Brad Ramstead, Ranch Manager. “We’re still getting more calves so we don’t know yet what the final number will be.”
Syncrude’s herd now comprises 300 animals. The majority of sales are for calves, yearlings, and two-year-olds. Mix 103.FM reports that "the company is able to manage its size through sales at auctions" and that "these new calves will stay with their mothers throughout the summer and into the fall. At the end of October, all the animals will be brought in for their annual round-up."
“We tag the new calves, conduct herd health checks and administer all annual vaccinations,” added Ramstead.
The Syncrude herd takes back to 1993, in which 30 animals were transferred from Elk Island National Park (which is around 35 kilometres east of Edmonton) to their ownership. The project occurred jointly with the aforementioned Fort McKay First Nation to repatriate the bison, which are endemic to this region.
“The herd demonstrates our commitment to reclaiming the land disturbed by our operations,” noted Jesse Hall, Syncrude’s Manager – Tailings and Lease Development. “The herd...also demonstrates our commitment to working with Indigenous communities in the region.”
Originally, Syncrude sought to introduce cattle as a way of studying how large mammals would fair on a depleted oilsands mine that had been filled in and planted with vegetation.
When the company approached the Fort McKay First Nation with the idea, its leaders reported how they would like to see bison returned to the region.
"We thought something more indigenous to the area would be suitable," Fort McKay Chief Jim Boucher said.
Since then, the herd's growth represents the success of Syncrude's oilsands reclamation project and their continued partnership with indigenous communities.