Learn more about the wood bison reintroduction project.
Wood bison appear very similar to plains bison but are slightly bigger, with mature males weighing up to 2,000 pounds. They predominantly use open meadows interspersed among woodlands and feed on grasses and sedges.
Critical Habitat: None designated
Distribution: Historically found throughout Alaska and Canada. Today, seven free-ranging herds with approximately 4,000 animals are now only found in Alberta, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon Territory, Canada.
Threats: Numbers originally declined from hunting, especially in Canada. Current threats are minimal and herd sizes are growing. However, these animals are susceptible to bovine tuberculosis, bovine brucellosis, and anthrax. Some Canadian populations are affected by these diseases. Commercial production of plains bison in Canada reduces the amount of potential habitat available for wood bison and also increases the risk of hybridization between the two subspecies.
Conservation efforts: There currently is a herd of approximately 115 wood bison at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center near Girdwood, Alaska. These animals await release in Alaska, most likely to a location near the Yukon River, as the Service and Alaska Department of Fish and Game work through the details of where and under what provisions they can be released. In Canada, conservation efforts, including reintroduction of disease-free herds, have led to an increase in the number of herds from one in 1978, to seven herds now, with over 4,000 animals total.
Contacts: Bruce Woods (907) 786-3695 or Sonja Jahrsdoerfer 786-3323
More detailed information:
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Species Profile
Alaska Department of Fish & Game Species Profile
Canada’s Species At Risk Profile
Management of wood bison in the Yukon Territory, Canada