Loading articles...

Syncrude opens up new pasture for Wood Bison on reclaimed land

Last Updated Sep 20, 2018 at 8:38 am MDT

PHOTO. Syncrude introduced 30 wood bison to their ranch on reclaimed land on Feb. 16, 1993. Since then their herd has grown to about 300 with about 90 to 100 calf’s born per year. Melanie Walsh. REPORTER.

Syncrude is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Beaver Creek Wood Bison Ranch.

Ranch Manager, Brad Ramstead has been with the herd ever since the first 30 wood bison arrived from Elk Island National Park on Feb. 16, 1993. 

“Over that period of time our pastures have grown,” said Ramstead. “Our herd now can be up to 300 head of wood bison after calving. We generally get between 90 to 100 calf’s per year.”

He never thought the project would grow into what it is today.

“I started in 1991, came up here on a six month program and our first trial was to do some reclamation or some seeding down here.” recalled Ramstead. “We started to talk about a pilot project to see if large mammals would be able to use the reclaimed land and the grass here on a five year plan and now it’s five times that.”

The herd has certainly proven that large mammals can flourish on reclaimed land, receiving numerous awards and recognition, specifically for being the most genetically pure bison herd that’s ranched.


Ramstead and his team check on the animals every day, on their water supplies and general health as well as the fencing that surrounds the 300 hectare ranch.

“We provide them grass which is grown here directly from reclamation…and the animals have showed the fact through the veterinaries and the health and protocols that we’ve done here, that there has been no detrimental affects that we are on Syncrude, and that’s always been a question right from the start but now we’ve got 25 years under our belt,” said Ramstead.

Throughout the bison industry the ranch is recognized on the forefront for their wood bison conservation efforts and the genetic purity of their animals.

The Syncrude bison are often are sold at auctions as a means to manage the the herd’s size.  So far about 1,500 bison have been sold, most likely for breeding on meat farms.

This year about 100 bison have been moved to a new pasture, known as the East Toe Berm, that is an area of reclaimed land that incorporates trees and shrubs into its landscaping. Ramstead said this is a novelty for the bison herd and that as calving season started the cows quickly learned to use the trees as shelter for their newborns.