WATERTON LAKES NATIONAL PARK, AB – A herd of plains bison has returned to Waterton Lakes National Park.

Blackfoot Confederacy elders from Kainai, Piikani and Siksika Nations were on hand last Friday, Feb. 19 to welcome the six animals back to the area from Elk Island National Park.

Waterton has maintained a small plains bison herd since 1952 and Parks Canada says their spring habitat, after being severely burned in the Kenow wildfire almost four years ago, has re-grown enough to sustain them once again.

Bison play an integral role in Indigenous cultures across North America and are called a keystone species as they help alter the landscape in ways that benefit virtually all other plants and animals.

Earlier this month, 40 bison were also relocated from Elk Island National Park to the Kainai First Nation as it establishes a cultural bison herd.