Great Plains Bison in grass field

Great Plains Bison

PSP Wainwright
Come out and see the Great Plains Bison!

Bud Cotton Buffalo Paddock A History of the Great Plains Bison Herd

Bud Cotton:
Canada’s first buffalo warden at the Wainwright Buffalo Reserve in Alberta. 


The History:

1870s Walking Coyote captured four Great Plains Bison calves (two bulls, two cows) and took them to Montana.

1884 The herd numbers grew to 13 and the herd was sold to two ranches, Pablo & Allard, who purchased an additional 26 elsewhere. This became the last wild Great Plains Bison Herd.

1906 The herd grew to 700 head. Pablo sold it to the Canadian Government. The herd was moved to Elk Island Park to await a proper fence to be built at Buffalo National Park in Wainwright.

1909 The herd was moved to Wainwright except for 49 strays that formed the current herd in Elk Island Park. 

1939 In the interim, over 40,000 Great Plains Bison were born and shipped all over North America, Europe and Asia to found virtually every herd of Great Plains Bison in existence today. Eventually, overgrazing, TB and other diseases reduced the Wainwright herd to zero and the Park is closed.

1940 Camp Wainwright was established at the Buffalo National Park location.

1980 As part of Alberta’s 75th Anniversary, Camp Wainwright established a small memorial herd of four Great Plains bison (two bulls, two cows) – same as Walking Coyote in 1870. Bud Cotton, the Chief Park Warden during the 1930s, cut the official ribbon at the opening.

2016 The Herd is now maintained at an approximate count of 35 head by a volunteer staff.