Wood Bison Release Delayed Until 2013

A plan to let 100 Wood Bison loose in Alaska has been put on hold until March of  2013.  The herd of bison is being maintained by the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center near Portage, under an agreement with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which pays for their upkeep.  The state Department of Fish and Game wants to restore the Wood Bison to its natural setting in the state, but the plan must wait until federal and state agencies negotiate a special rule that would exempt the animals from the Endangered Species Act.

Mike Miller directs the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.  Miller, speaking at a recent agricultural fair, says the wood bison restoration project started around 20 years ago with state biologist Bob Stevenson.

Miller says the wood bison died off likely because of over hunting or lack of conservation management.  They are now extinct in the United States.

The current wood bison herd in Portage has grown from animals imported from Alberta in 2007.

In Canada, the wood bison are listed as endangered.

The plan in Alaska was to release about half the bison at Yukon Flats or Minto Flats, but those locations posed obstacles due to fears that the bison would conflict with resource development.  Now the animals are to be released at Innoko River Flats, near Shaguluk, but the release at Innoko  was stalled because of a lack of a provision in the special rule that would allow hunting the animals.

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