Conservation and Research

Beaver Surveys

The landscape of Elk Island National Park is characterised by 'knob and kettle' topography. However the riparian (wetland) habitat on which almost all of the Park's species ultimately depend is created and maintained by beaver. In other words the beaver is a 'keystone' species in the Park.

Elk Island has suffered the worst drought in almost 140 years. Every three years Parks Canada fly an aerial survey of beaver lodges and dams in an effort to maintain accurate statistics regarding beaver populations. The last two surveys were flown in 1999, at the start of the drought, and again in 2002 when water levels were at their lowest for 137 years. The near 'normal' rainfall of 2003 presents a one-time opportunity to research and document the recovery of the beaver population following severe drought. This information is of immense significance to Elk Island and is unprecedented in the research

Trumpeter Swan Reintroduction

By the early 1900s the Trumpeter Swan, the largest of our swan species, was nearly extinct due to over-hunting and loss of habitat. Today only 3500 trumpeters survive east of the Rocky Mountains with the largest flock in Canada residing in the Grande Prairie area. In 1982, Alberta Fish and Wildlife identified human disturbance and habitat loss in the Grande Prairie area as a threat to the general long-term survival of this flock. In 1987, Elk Island National Park was selected for a trumpeter swan transplant program.

As part of this program, cygnets from Grande Prairie are relocated onto EINP lakes. The cygnets ‘foster ’ to non-breeding adult or sub-adult birds in the Park, leaving with the adults in autumn to return to their wintering areas. All those cygnets and adults that survive the hazards of winter and migration return to the EINP area each subsequent spring.

It takes 4-6 years for a female Trumpeter Swan to reach maturity so this is definitely a long-term project. However as of 2002 there were 27 birds in the Park including cygnets, breeding birds, and non-breeding sub-adults.

The FEIS contribute extensively to this project by funding aerial surveys, by paying for birds to be transported to the Park from Grande Prairie and by providing volunteers to monitor the swans during the breeding season.

Wood Bison Conservation

Elk Island supports North America’s oldest herd of pure-bred Wood Bison and these are maintained disease (bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis) free through the Park's rigorous disease testing and management program. During the course of this program the bison are counted and excess animals are exported to restock and reintroduce wild herds across Canada and parts of the United states. The FEIS are committed to assist in the establishment of self-sustaining, free-roaming wild herds.


Not only does the Friends of Elk Island Society finance conservation projects undertaken by Elk Island National Park but it also supports and helps finance graduate research undertaken by students from the University of Alberta and elsewhere.

Applications for Research Grants are first sent to Elk Island National Park's Science Advisory Committee, here they are reviewed against the Park's Ecosystem Conservation Plan. Those applications which are consistent with the Park's policy are forwarded to the FEIS Conservation Research and Education committee (CRE) for consideration.

Projects supported by the Friends include :

  • The role of nutrients on the larval ecology of amphibians (Arthur Whiting, Ph.D. student)
  • Habitat use of the Western Toad (Connie Browne, Ph.D. student)
  • Trumpeter Swan monitoring (Rob Kaye, park warden)
  • Sakha Wood Bison transfer (Steve Otway and Wes Olson, park wardens)

Table of Contents

Page title Most recent update Last edited by
Superintendent's Message - Christmas 2012 December 19, 2012 5:44 PM Rick W.
2012 Interpretive Program Schedules July 28, 2012 7:35 PM Rick W.
Yellow Rail Monitoring July 15, 2012 2:42 PM Rick W.
Elk Island National Park Information March 18, 2012 10:53 AM Rick W.
The Friends of Elk Island Society December 16, 2011 11:45 AM Rick W.
Contact, Location and Maps November 18, 2013 10:06 AM Rick W.
Membership September 2, 2014 11:55 AM Rick W.
Conservation and Research December 11, 2011 9:52 AM Rick W.
About Friends of Elk Island Society July 28, 2012 7:37 PM Rick W.

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