Buffalo National Park was created near the town of Wainwright in east central Alberta on June 5, 1909. It was closed in 1940 and delisted in 1947 when the land was transferred to the Department of National Defence. The 583 km2 (225 sq mi) park land now comprises the majority of Canadian Forces Base Wainwright. The first Park Warden was Bud Cotton, who served from 1912 through 1940.
Buffalo National Park, with a focus on plains bison (often referred to as buffalo), was one of several national parks created in the Canadian Prairies expressly to protect and regenerate dangerously low populations of bison and pronghorns. Other 'regeneration' parks, also delisted in 1947, included Wawaskesy National Park, Nemiskam National Park (both in Alberta), and Menissawok National Park in Saskatchewan.
Buffalo National Park was populated by the Canadian government with a herd of roughly 700 bison, purchased from the Flathead Reservation in Montana, United States. The herd was transported to the new park by train. The park also received smaller populations of elk and moose. During its thirty one years of activity, the park produced 40,000 bison, 3000 wapiti, and 300 moose.
The park eventually fell victim to its own success, for as numbers grew, disease and starvation spread among the herd, competing for food on the park's limited space. Sanctioned slaughters in the late 1910s brought public outcry. Culling continued on an annual basis thereafter, including the transfer or sale of bison to other parks, such as about 6000 to 7000 head sent to Wood Buffalo National Park during the 1920s.
With its mission accomplished, the park was closed in 1940. In 1980, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Alberta and the legacy of the former Buffalo National Park, four bison from Elk Island National Park were moved to Wainwright. Today, about a dozen bison reside on CFB Wainwright in Bud Cotton Paddock, named for the first Park Warden.