Re-Introduced Wood Bison Faring Well

Wood Bison in Portage game facility. Credit: Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Wood Bison in Portage game facility.
Credit: Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Wood bison transplanted by the state to the western interior this spring appear to be adapting to the wild. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game flew a group of Canadian stock bison cows and young animals to the village of Shageluk in March. To date, most of the animals have fared well.

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For the first time since Wood bison went extinct in Alaska over a century ago, the big furry animals are back. The herd of 100 bison flown into Shageluk and released into the surrounding Yukon and Innoko River country are being closely monitored by state biologists.

Department of Fish and Game spokeswoman Cathie Harms says that means breaking into smaller groups and spreading out, eating wild grasses and giving birth to calves.

Meanwhile, 14 other bison have died including 9 that fell through rotting river ice in recent weeks. The animals were transplanted prior to calving, as way to anchor the species to the area, and Harms says some ice casualties were expected.

Harms says another five bison perished due to unknown causes.

The state is preparing to move a group of full grown bull bison to the Shageluk area this summer.

Wood bison are the largest land mammals in the western hemisphere and Harms says moving the 2 thousand pound bulls may require anesticizing or otherwise drugging the animals. The move is scheduled for later this month or early June, just prior to the summer breeding season. The Wood Bison reintroduction in the Shageluk area is the culmination of a long running effort to restore the animals to Interior Alaska.