Lake Audy Bison Enclosure, Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, Canada

Driving Safari: Meet the Bison at the Lake Audy Bison Enclosure

Hundreds of years ago, thousands and thousands of bison roamed the grassland prairies of central Manitoba, Canada. Unfortunately, due to overhunting, the bison population became all but depleted. Not only was this detrimental to the bison and other wildlife in the region, it was also bad for the grassland prairies. Just as the bison needs the grassland to thrive, the grassland needs the bison and other wildlife to truly thrive, as well. In an effort to save this rich and diverse ecosystem, Riding Mountain National Park started implementing conservation practices in the early 1900’s by creating a program to reintroduce bison to the region in the Lake Audy Bison Enclosure.

Lake Audy Bison Enclosure, Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, Canada

This program started in the 1930’s when 20 bison were reintroduced to the prairie. The Lake Audy plains were picked as the location because bison bones and markings in the region indicated bison had lived there in the past. Unfortunately, due to disease, the bison were not able to survive. In the 1940’s, another herd of 10 new bison were brought to the Lake Audy plain. Now, the 40 or so bison currently in the enclosure are descendants from those 10 bison that were introduced in the 40’s.

Lake Audy Bison Enclosure, Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, Canada

When we were camping at Riding Mountain National Park, we had the opportunity to join a couple of the summer programming options, one of which was the “Meet the Bison with Park Canada Driving Safari.” I’m always a bit skeptical when visiting animals enclosed in fences or zoos. But after learning about the enclosure and its history on our driving safari, I left with the understanding that it was created to bring back the ecosystem that was once thriving on these lands. The reintroduction of bison to the area is an important step in protecting and restoring the ecosystem of the prairie.

Lake Audy Bison Enclosure, Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, Canada

The enclosure is 500 hectacres in size (which means it’s pretty huge!), and it is divided into two sections—one for winter and one for summer. There is a fence around the enclosure, but it does allow for other wildlife to roam freely in and out of the area. The park tries to limit the disturbance of the fence to other wildlife, so they have created areas where animals such as bear, coyotes, fox, elk and deer can either jump over the fence or enter through a hole in the fence, which helps keep the natural order of the ecosystem intact.

Lake Audy Bison Enclosure, Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, Canada

You are free to drive through the enclosure at any time during the day on your own, but the animals are typically more active during the morning and early evening hours. If you would like to learn more about the enclosure, a tour with a park ranger is a great option. Our tour through the prairie met at the interpretive center in the Lake Audy Bison Enclosure. You need a car to reach the enclosure, and you also need a car to participate in the tour as you will be following the ranger in your personal car.

Lake Audy Bison Enclosure, Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, Canada

Once our group was assembled on the viewing platform overlooking the prairie, our park ranger told us facts and history about the bison in the region. We learned about the history of the area and information about the bison and the fescue prairie grasslands located on the horizon in front of us.

Lake Audy Bison Enclosure, Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, Canada

Then it was time to hop into our cars and tune our radio to AM to listen to the station where our guide would be narrating the journey for us. We pulled our car in line and joined the caravan to look for some bison. As we drove, we continued to listen to live narration from the ranger leading the pack.

Lake Audy Bison Enclosure, Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, Canada

Lake Audy Bison Enclosure, Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, Canada

When you are in the enclosure, getting out of your vehicle is prohibited. The only exception to this rule is if you are on the guided tour; then you can get out of your car and join the ranger for a closer look at the grassland, which is exactly what we did. We were shown a variety of wildlife growing and living in the grassland and it was great to get a closer look at an ecosystem we hadn’t thought much about before.

Lake Audy Bison Enclosure, Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, Canada

After looking at the intricate ecosystem that makes up the grassland, we returned to our car in search of bison. And find them we did. With the help of the ranger spotting the bison from the lead car, we saw one bison after another.  Once our tour was complete, we decided to stay in the enclosure to do some more looking on our own. We broke off from the remaining cars in the group and ended up getting into a bison traffic jam.

Lake Audy Bison Enclosure, Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, Canada

Lake Audy Bison Enclosure, Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, Canada

We found an area where the bison were roaming on and next to the road so we slowed to a halt and just sat in awe observing the giant animals next to our car.

Lake Audy Bison Enclosure, Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, Canada

The driving safari was a fantastic way to get the inside scoop on the conservation efforts happening in the area. It was great to learn more about the native animals in the region before human intervention, and we enjoyed seeing the bison population as it starts to thrive once again. We absolutely loved getting a close up look at the giant bison as they roamed the prairie—it’s a wildlife encounter we won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

 

Have you ever been to the Lake Audy Bison Enclosure or encountered bison up close?

Meet the Bison at the Lake Audy Bison Enclosure in Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba, Canada
13 Comments
  • Marcus & Mel
    Posted at 06:09h, 05 August Reply

    Looks a really interesting tour. Love the wonderful sunlight in your photographs.

  • Fiona Maclean
    Twitter:
    Posted at 09:44h, 05 August Reply

    What a fascinating story behind the reintroduction of Bison – and a great experience. I’m living vicariously here, I doubt I’ll get over to see the Bison myself so I’ll just make do with your fab pics
    Fiona Maclean recently posted…Indigo at One Aldwych – A ‘Free From’ Tasting MenuMy Profile

  • Skye Class
    Posted at 02:52h, 06 August Reply

    This is a really great article! I haven’t explored nearly enough of Canada, and I love articles, so this is definitely something I’d like to do someday. I also like to see the places where they are true sanctuaries for animals, helping to introduce them into their natural habitat which is usually all but gone. Too bad I can’t make it this year when all the national parks in Canada are free!
    Skye Class recently posted…Follow in my Footsteps: Fish, Funiculars and 100-Foot Waves in NazaréMy Profile

  • Toni Broome
    Twitter:
    Posted at 21:51h, 06 August Reply

    What a great initialive to reintroduce them and to perservere after the first herd failed. They are such beautiful animals it would be wonderful if they could repopulate and self sustain in the region. Canada does have do much natural beauty we’d love to explore.
    Toni Broome recently posted…A Foodies Guide to Things to Do in BundabergMy Profile

  • Siddhartha Joshi
    Posted at 22:14h, 06 August Reply

    Wow! Your pictures are so beautiful. And to see bison in that golden light must’ve been quite an experience…

    It’s really nice that efforts are made to preserve them…kudos to them!

  • Linda Aksomitis
    Posted at 10:43h, 07 August Reply

    We just drove the Alaska Highway where there’s a few hundred mile area or so with bison in the wild. They’re woods bison though, not plains bison. It was an amazing trip for seeing wildlife!

  • Jennifer
    Twitter:
    Posted at 10:27h, 08 August Reply

    The bison are beautiful! With 500 acres to roam, that is definitely a huge enclosure and not like a zoo at all. I’d definitely do the guided tour for the opportunity to get out of the car alone.
    Jennifer recently posted…The Best of Bordeaux: Arcachon Oysters and Grand Cru ClasséMy Profile

  • Elisa
    Posted at 12:21h, 08 August Reply

    It must be very impressive to see bisons that close! Are there car (number of cars) restrictions? That long line of cars does not look very sexy . . .

  • Ryazan
    Posted at 15:01h, 08 August Reply

    What an awesome experience! It’s a shame that these gorgeous beasts were hunted down. It’s great to know that efforts were made to keep them safe and grow in numbers again. Stunning photos! 🙂

  • Barb
    Posted at 16:33h, 08 August Reply

    I have never seen a bison close up, but it must be amazing to get so close to those furry beasts. They look so mellow and lazy.

  • Juliette
    Posted at 22:32h, 10 August Reply

    So glad to hear there are initiatives like this. And just how amazing it is to see these beautiful bisons in person! What a great experience to get up so close to them too. So glad they’re being looked after.
    Juliette recently posted…A Guide To Night Skiing In QueenstownMy Profile

  • Chris
    Posted at 22:52h, 10 August Reply

    Thanks for sharing this awesome post. I like how you can follow along in your own car for the tour of the park.
    Chris recently posted…7 Tips to keep your feet dry inside rubber bootsMy Profile

  • The Globe Trotter
    Posted at 07:04h, 17 August Reply

    Your photographs are beautiful. The bison is such a majestic animal. It is a shame they were hunted down so close to depletion but equally happy and impressed with the initiatives taken by the Riding Mountain National Park to conserve and protect these beautiful animals.

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