Bison at Elk Island National Park

I am very fortunate to live only half an hour away from Elk Island National Park where there are about 400 plains bison and 300 wood bison. It is the only fully fenced national park in the country, and the fencing is necessary because the bison population is being actively managed. The fence is there to keep out predators and stop the bison from roaming too far.

I went there today with my eldest son and his family and we were notified at the park gate that there had been two bear sightings this morning! We were advised to be cautious, and the brochure we were handed told us to talk firmly to a bear if we should see one. Right. I always treat black bears like naughty children. Doesn’t everyone?

We were pleased to see a herd of bison soon after arriving, and they seemed to be quite content to rest and graze not far from a small parking area. They saw us and we saw them and neither moved very close to the other. I was glad I had brought my long lens.

Shortly after we left that area we passed a bison at the side of the road. Like the other bison we saw, it is shedding its winter coat. It was so close I could have reached out to touch it. On our return journey, it was still happily chomping away at the grass, completely oblivious to traffic.

All-in-all, it was a delightful morning. The weather was about 15 Celsius and the skies were blue. Bison are often elusive, so being able to take so many pictures made my Mothers’ Day complete.


The park is asking visitors not to come at weekends until the fall due to parking problems.


  1. Great photos!

    “ talk firmly to a bear if we should see one. Right. I always treat black bears like naughty children. Doesn’t everyone?”

    lol that part was hilarious! 😂

  2. Lovely photos! I always see fence not so much to keep the animals in but rather to keep the humans out so they won’t disturb the animals. This is.. bison are beautiful. Big, massive and not easily moved if I’m guessing correctly (never seen one for real). What a wonderful trip

    • Thank you for the compliment.

      This national park is welcoming to humans provided we keep to the roads and paths and don’t interfere with the animals. According to the website, about 400,000 people visit each year.

  3. And, my husband and I found out that bison is the correct term for these animals in North America, not buffalo. Which totally messes with our state song here in Kansas: “Home on the Range”. The words, “Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam” would mean a whole different continent, like Africa or South America. What a hoot. We have a Tall Grass Prairie preserve a couple of hours away where we hiked among the bison roaming there. I didn’t have a zoom lens, and kept a healthy distance as they are HUGE!

    • It seems “buffalo” has been the popular name for them for a long time, but formally they have always been bison. We have a popular tourist spot in Alberta called Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, but I don’t think anyone is planning to change the name to Head Smashed In Bison Jump. 🙂

      • Had to look that up! “Even in their blurb, they misspeak: Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site that preserves and interprets over 6,000 years of Plains Buffalo culture. Through vast landscapes, exhibits, and diverse programming, learn about the cultural significance of this cliff to the Plains People”
        Sounds like an interesting place to visit, when it reopens. But too bad they don’t take the opportunity to use the correct term for that particular animal.

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