When There Were Bison in Stanley Park

Add a Comment by Rebecca Bollwitt

Browsing the City of Vancouver Archives is an always an adventure, like the other day when I was looking up the Haywood Bandstand and stumbled across photos of bison in Stanley Park. Bison? I had to investigate further:

Bison in Stanley Park

1912 Bison in Stanley Park
1912 Bison in Stanley Park. Archives #CVA 71-13

The last time I saw a bison was during a Badlands Tour in Southern Alberta and at Elk Island near Edmonton. The last time bison were naturally grazing around Southwest British Columbia was about 12,000 years ago. So, where did this photo of Bison in Stanley Park come from? You may have already guessed, they were in the Stanley Park Zoo.

Royal BC Museum Bison Stanley Park
1890s Royal BC Museum Item B-07373 – “Buffalo in Stanley Park”; Vancouver
Buffalo in Stanley Park 1900s W.G. MacFarlane Postcard, John Mackie Collection. Montreal Gazette.
Buffalo in Stanley Park 1900s W.G. MacFarlane Postcard, John Mackie Collection. Montreal Gazette.

“We had the park, we had Sunset Beach, we had English Bay, we had Second Beach, we had Third Beach, we had Lumberman’s Arch, we had Brockton Oval, we had a herd of bison in Stanley Park…” – Ann Frost, recalling growing up in the West End in the 1940s

[Vancouver Heritage Foundation]

According to the Stanley Park Ecology Society, in the 1890s the Bison Ranch was located where the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club is now.

1930 James Crookall Bison Stanley Park
1930 Photo by James Crookall Archives #CVA 260-282

The latest photo I found was from 1939, submitted to the archives by Major Matthews.

1939 Buffalo in Stanley Park enclosure. Archives #St Pk N46. Major Matthews
1939 Buffalo in Stanley Park enclosure. Archives #St Pk N46. Major Matthews

I couldn’t find any information about when the bison were removed from the park, but hopefully they were there are a part of conservation efforts. [Update] A Facebook follower just confirmed she remembers seeing them in the late 1960s!

To learn more about what Canada is doing for the bison population, Parks Canada has some insights here.

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