Smart collars help Elk Island National Park staff learn w. and why the buffalo roam

Elk Island Nationwide Park workers are equipping bison with good collars to seek out out w. and why the buffalo roam.

The nationwide park, 35 minutes east of Edmonton, is house to about 1,000 wooden and plains bison. Ten feminine animals from every herd had been randomly chosen to put on the high-tech trackers, says Jonathan DeMoor, Elk Island National Park ecologist.

“Our GPS collars document a location each two hours and so they transmit that information by way of satellite tv for pc as soon as a day so these maps are a snapshot of every level from sooner or later,” DeMoor says. 

Ecologist Jonathan DeMoor checks out a pen at Elk Island Nationwide Park w. a small herd is isolating previous to delivery to Alaska as a part of conservation efforts. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

Which suggests whereas park workers might not have up-to-the-minute places, they do have a reasonably good concept of w. the bison spend most of their time.

That intel is shared on a map within the customer centre to “enhance your odds of discovering the herd,” DeMoor says.

Usually the herd is simply out of sight, over a hill or tucked right into a stand of bushes, he says. 

“The .rmation we get from these collars lets us perceive how the bison are utilizing the park, what sort of habitats they’re utilizing, and the distinction in several seasons by way of w. they head.”

The collars additionally reveal one thing of the herd’s social scene.

“It is one giant herd that breaks off into little teams after which they arrive again after which mingle up and so they break up off into completely different teams,” DeMoor says. 

‘Elk Island is so vital globally by way of bison conservation’

A number of the bison in Elk Island Nationwide Park east of Edmonton are sporting excessive tech trackers, one even has a video collar. 2:01

You’ll be able to see extra from Elk Island Nationwide Park on this week’s Our Edmonton on Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at midday and 11 a.m. Monday on CBC TV and CBC Gem. 

The collars even have an accelerometer, a Fitbit-like machine, inbuilt to document how a lot the bison transfer.

Video verifies naptime

The park has been accumulating information from the collars since 2016, however lately one of many animals was additionally outfitted with a digicam.

“It is really a radio collar mixed with a video collar on the underside of it,” says Brian Eaton, chair of the Friends of Elk Island Society (FEIS), which bought the $5,000 digicam.

The digicam, connected to the five-year-old bison nicknamed Feisty, data 20 seconds of video each hour in the course of the day, Eaton says.

After a 12 months of sporting it across the collar was lately retrieved and the digicam despatched to the Germany manufacture w. the video is now being downloaded.

The digicam collar lately retrieved by workers in Elk Island Nationwide Park from Feisty is displayed for a photograph. (Jonathan DeMoor/Parks Canada)

The bison physique cam has predictably revealed a lot of strolling and grazing however t. are additionally movies of Feisty watching the site visitors go by, wallowing in filth and taking naps within the tall grass.

Matching these snippets with the placement information provides researchers a glimpse into herd behaviour.

“Then you’ll be able to say, she’s transferring fairly quick, she’s in all probability working,” Eaton says. “We do not know that for certain, now we are able to take a look at this video clips and relate it to what her accelerometer information appears to be like like and so they can really use that to calibrate what they’re getting from different animals as nicely.”

Analysis and conservation

Bison are North America’s largest land mammal. Tens of millions as soon as dotted the continent from Alaska to Mexico, earlier than they hunted to close extinction by early settlers.

The Canadian authorities bought one of many remaining herds and, between 1907 and 1912, shipped greater than 700 animals by prepare to Elk Island. 

This 194-square-kilometre house is the nation’s largest totally enclosed nationwide park with a combination grasslands, aspen and boreal forest.

For many years, animals from these seed herds for each sub-species of North America bison have been relocated to nations across the globe and to First Nations throughout Canada. 

Elders Jerry and Jo-Ann Saddleback together with their great-granddaughter view the bison about to be relocated to Alaska. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

Proper now a number of dozen wooden bison are in a pen ready to be moved to Alaska.

“To us, they’re deities out t., positioned in several sanctuaries all through the universe,”says Jerry Saddleback, Samson Cree Nation Elder, on a latest go to to the park. 

For his individuals observing the sacred animals is nothing new, he says.

“We had our personal conventional individuals who knew tips on how to monitor them by buffalo trails, … which path they might be touring and w. our [encampment] can be ideally positioned.”  

Saddleback says being close to the animals on the park is rejuvenating.

“It provides you a sure stage of inspiration; it touches your soul.”

Feisty and pals graze in Elk Island Nationwide Park east of Edmonton. (Jonathan DeMoor/Parks Canada)

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