Wood Buffalo National Park anthrax outbreak appears to slow, no new carcasses in past week

·2 min read
Fire crews were at Sweetgrass Station last week disposing of 10 bison carcasses.  (Parks Canada - image credit)
Fire crews were at Sweetgrass Station last week disposing of 10 bison carcasses. (Parks Canada - image credit)

An anthrax outbreak in a remote area of Wood Buffalo National Park appears to be slowing down as no fresh bison carcasses have been found in the last week.

Parks Canada
Parks Canada

Alice Will, bison project management lead and incident commander at Parks Canada, said the park completes routine surveillance flights and any recently spotted carcasses had been dead for a long time.

Will said favourable weather temperatures have helped slow the outbreak.

"We've had temperatures in the low 20s, some rain, some cool conditions," said Will.

"So we are seeing a pause or hopefully an end to the outbreak but we don't want to speak too soon."

So far 59 mortalities have been confirmed in remote areas of the park which pose no risk to the public.

Will said park employees continue to conduct ground and aerial monitoring.

Last week an incident management team was mobilized to assist in the disposal of 10 carcasses at the Sweetgrass Station. Sweetgrass is considered a priority area because of its close proximity to visitor facilities.

Culturally important

Will also said it was important for Parks Canada to work with their Indigenous partners who made specific requests for the disposal process.

"Bison are culturally important to the Cree, Dene and Métis [people] in the region and we have worked really closely with our Indigenous partners on the cultural component of our response," Will said.

The Incident Management Team and local staff all smudged prior to disposing of the carcasses. This was led by Wood Buffalo acting site superintendent Rhona Kindopp.

Kindopp said they received the sage from Fort Smith elder and activist, François Paulette and Fort Chipewyan Métis Local President Kendrick Cardinal said a prayer.

D McIntosh/Parks Canada
D McIntosh/Parks Canada

Indigenous team members also burned tobacco and diamond willow fungus at the disposal site, Will said this was done to pay respect to the deceased bison.

Kindopp said it was the first time ever that they began their anthrax response with the cultural element but said it was very well received.

"The crews were extremely engaged, appreciative, and respectful," said Kindopp.

Although extremely rare, humans can get anthrax from contact with an infected animal.

Anyone who comes across a dead animal in the park should not touch it. Instead, they should immediately report the location to the park at 867-872-0404.

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