Parks Canada has dispatched a national incident management team to help tackle an outbreak of anthrax among the bison of Wood Buffalo National Park.
Fifty-nine bison carcasses have been identified by staff since the outbreak began earlier this month. This week, the first samples – sent for analysis early last week – came back positive for anthrax.
The incident team arrived in Fort Smith earlier in the week and is working on the safe disposal of carcasses in the Sweetgrass area.
Parks Canada asked Fort Smith residents to avoid the Wood Buffalo National Park firebase next to the town’s airport, where the incident team has based itself, and stay away from Moose Island within the park.
Closures remain in place in the park’s Sweetgrass, Trident Creek, Trident Meadows and Peace Point West Junction areas.
“Resource conservation staff at Wood Buffalo National Park continue to conduct routine surveillance flights in the park to identify new mortalities and monitor the extent of the outbreak,” Parks Canada said in a bulletin issued on Thursday.
“So far, observed carcasses are located in remote areas of the park and we don’t foresee any risk to the public.”
Last week, when the number of observed carcasses stood at 47, Parks Canada staff said the outbreak required monitoring but did not yet pose a significant threat to Wood Buffalo’s 5,000-strong herd.
Anthrax outbreaks don’t happen among bison every summer but are common enough that one might be expected in the region every five to 10 years.
In 2012, an anthrax outbreak among bison in the Northwest Territories killed more than 300 animals.