Parks Canada warned drivers to watch for bison after two calves on the highway in Wood Buffalo National Park were killed in collisions with cars.
The incidents happened in late September. “The highway runs through some of the best bison habitat,” Parks Canada spokesperson Kevin Gedling said by email, describing a section of road within the park north of Fort Smith.
Bison collisions are ordinarily more common in the fall as several herds use the road to feed and travel.
This year, the first collision happened on September 24 and the second on September 30.
Gedling said one of the calves remained alive for at least 48 hours before Parks Canada staff were able to humanely put it down. Staff had tried to check on the calf a day earlier but the calf’s mother wouldn’t let them approach.
When staff returned the following day, the herd had moved on and left the calf. Workers made the decision to euthanize it.
“We think highway speeds and poor lighting conditions may have played a role in these incidents,” said Gedling. “We would like to emphasize the need to drive carefully and attentively as the summer season has changed to fall, and that motorists need to anticipate seeing bison any time they drive on Highway 5.”
If a bison is hit within park boundaries, the collision should be reported to Parks Canada’s duty officer at (867) 872-0404. If a bison is hit on a highway elsewhere in the NWT, it should be reported to the nearest Department of Environment and Natural Resources wildlife officer.
Gedling encouraged anyone who sees injured wildlife along the road to get in touch with the duty officer.
“Please try to reference your location as precisely as possible of the reported incident and include relevant details such as time of day, conditions, wildlife involved, and personal contact details,” he wrote.