Wood Bison To Be Reintroduced to the Wild in Alaska

Written by Jaymi Heimbuch

We all know the story of plains bison. They once thundered across the prairies by the millions until trigger-happy Europeans nearly wiped them out. But we don’t all know the story of their larger forest-dwelling cousins, the wood bison. Scientists estimate that there may have been around 168,000 in Canada in the late 1800s, with numbers dropping over the course of the century to just a few hundred. And in Alaska, wild wood bison had practically disappeared.

But now, Alaska wildlife officials want to boost the number of the 130 wood bison found in the state at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center by reintroducing a herd in the wild.

Reuters reports, “State and federal officials said the deal used provisions of the Endangered Species Act to classify the bison as a “nonessential experimental population” in Alaska – meaning that protecting them would not hinder development, including oil drilling or mining. The animal is classified as threatened.”

The herd will be reintroduced in fenced areas at first, until they get used to their new digs, and eventually released into the wild. Limited hunting might be in the herd’s future as well — if the experiment lives up to its potential, anyway. And officials are hopeful indeed, since similar reintroduction efforts in Canada have been successful.

It is encouraging to see the possible return of such an iconic species to the wild. Fingers crossed for the new herd.

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.

 

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Photo: Metassus/flickr

168 comments

Natasha Salgado
natasha salgado3 years ago

This is wonderful news---music to my ears! Thank you

Marilyn M.
Marilyn M.3 years ago

Alaska is one of the most anti-conservation and anti-animal welfare states in the country.The only reason Alaska officials want to reintroduce wood bison is to provide new targets for hunters. They cleverly classify them as a “nonessential experimental population” so that no protections necessary for the bison can hinder development, including oil drilling or mining. As with reintroduced wolves, once the numbers of bison go up, the mass slaughter will begin.

The impact of human hunting is detrimental and entirely different from the beneficial impact of hunting by natural predators such as wolves. Wolves remove the old, diseased, and very young individuals from the gene pool, thereby improving the population and preventing overpopulation. Humans kill the strongest, largest, healthiest individuals in their prime, thereby removing the very individuals which should be left alive to breed and produce the next generation.

Tammy P.
Tammy P.3 years ago

That's a great idea to re-introduce the Wood Bison. I hope they adjust well.

Christine Jones
Christine J.3 years ago

Wonderful news that their numbers are to be increased; bad news if it just means they end up hunted to near-extinction again. Why can't people just leave them in peace?

Miguel Angel
Miguel Angel3 years ago

its a great idea, after all its being reintroduce, i wish good luck to the people involve in this project and good luck to the animal

Sheri D.
Sheri D.3 years ago

I never heard of wood bison. I hope they like their new home. And I hope people leave them alone!

Rita D.
Rita D.3 years ago

Excuse me, but the “trigger-happy Europeans” premise is a little disturbing. Even if virtually all Americans are immigrants (well, with the obvious exception of Native Americans), the near-mass extinction of plain buffalos happened in the late 19th century. A little too late to blame it on the first settlers.
Plus, to quote wikipedia: “The federal government promoted bison hunting for various reasons, to allow ranchers to range their cattle without competition from other bovines, and primarily to weaken the North American Indian population by removing their main food source and to pressure them onto the reservations. ... The railroad industry also wanted bison herds culled or eliminated.... The main reason for the bison's near-demise was commercial hunting.”
And Bufallo Bill, possibly the most famous professional buffalo hunter ever, was born in Iowa. How European is that?
I really don’t want to be polemic, but I feel that it’s important to place the blame where it belongs. Honesty is necessary to be aware of our past mistakes and to learn to act responsibly for the future.
This said, I wish to this new herd to be able to thrive. We are all ready to oppose any attempt of hunting them down, right?

Marie Therese Hanulak

They will eventually be murdered by humans. It is unavoidable. I'd rather they were not brought back.

Beth M.
Beth M.3 years ago

I never heard of them before. But let's stop the idea of hunting them now before it's too late.

Evelyn Mc McMullen
Evelyn M.3 years ago

Hooray, may they prosper.