The wood bison (
Bison bison athabascae) or mountain bison (often
called the wood buffalo or mountain buffalo), is a distinct northern
subspecies or ecotype of the American bison. Its
original range included much of the boreal forest regions of Alaska,
Yukon, western Northwest Territories, northeastern British Columbia,
northern Alberta, and northwestern Saskatchewan.
5 See also
7 External links
In comparison to plains bison (the other surviving North American
subspecies/ecotype), wood bison is heavier, with large males weighing
over 900 kg (2,000 lb), making it the largest terrestrial
animal in North America. The highest point of the wood bison is well
ahead of its front legs, while the plains bison's highest point is
directly above the front legs.
Wood bison also have larger horn cores,
darker and woollier pelages, and less hair on their forelegs and
Wood bison in Wood Buffalo National Park
Wood bisons including a calf in Nordhorn
In addition to the loss of habitat and hunting, wood bison populations
have also been in danger of hybridizing with plains bison, therefore
polluting the genetic stock.
As with other bison, the wood bison's population was devastated by
hunting and other factors. By the early 1900s, they were regarded as
extremely rare or perhaps nearly extinct. However, a herd of about 200
was discovered in Alberta, Canada, in 1957. This herd has since
recovered to a total population around 2500, largely as a result of
conservation efforts by Canadian government agencies. In 1988, the
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada changed the
subspecies' conservation status from "endangered" to "threatened,"
where it remains.
On June 17, 2008, 53 Canadian wood bison were transferred from Elk
Island National Park in Alberta, Canada, to the
Conservation Center near Anchorage, Alaska. There they were to be
held in quarantine for two years, and then reintroduced to their
native habitat in the Minto Flats area near Fairbanks, but this plan
was still on hold until April 7, 2015. In May 2014, the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a final rule allowing the
reintroduction of a "non-essential experimental" population of wood
bison into three areas of Alaska. The new regulation took effect June
Alaska Department of Fish and Game introduced the first herd of
100 animals to the Innoko River area in western
Alaska in spring 2015.
Currently, about 7000 wood bison remain in the wild, located in the
Northwest Territories, Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta, and
In 2006, as part of an international conservation project, an outherd
was established in Yakutia, Russia, where the related
steppe bison died out over 6000 years ago. Additional bison were sent
Alberta in 2011 and 2013 to
Russia bringing the total to 120.
Publicly owned free-ranging herds in Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon,
Northwest Territories comprise 90% of existing wood bison,
although six smaller public and private captive-breeding herds with
conservation objectives comprise roughly 10% of the total (n ≈ 900).
These captive herds and two large isolated free-ranging herds in the
Northwest Territories all derive from disease-free and
morphologically representative founding stock from northern Wood
Buffalo National Park
Buffalo National Park in northeastern
Alberta and southern Northwest
Territories. These captive herds are particularly important for
conservation and recovery purposes, because the larger free-ranging
herds in and around
Wood Buffalo National Park
Wood Buffalo National Park were infected with
bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis after 7,000 plains bison were
trans-shipped by barge from
Buffalo National Park
Buffalo National Park near Wainwright,
Alberta, in the 1920s.
Diseases including brucellosis and tuberculosis remain endemic in the
free-ranging herds in and around Wood Buffalo National Park. The
diseases represent a serious management issue for governments, various
local Aboriginal groups, and the cattle industry rapidly encroaching
on the park's boundaries. Disease management strategies and
initiatives began in the 1950s, and have yet to result in a reduction
of the incidence of either disease despite considerable expenditure
and increased public involvement.
The term "buffalo" is sometimes considered to be a misnomer for this
animal, as it is only distantly related to either of the two "true
buffalo", the Asian water buffalo and the African buffalo. However,
"bison" is a Greek word meaning ox-like animal, while "buffalo"
originated with the French fur trappers who called these massive
beasts bœufs, meaning ox or bullock—so both names, "bison" and
"buffalo", have a similar meaning. Though the name "bison" might be
considered to be more scientifically correct, as a result of standard
usage the name "buffalo" is also considered correct and is listed in
many dictionaries as an acceptable name for American buffalo or bison.
In reference to this animal, the term "buffalo" dates to 1635 in North
American usage when the term was first recorded for the American
mammal. It thus has a much longer history than the term "bison", which
was first recorded in 1774. The
American bison is very closely
related to the wisent or European bison.
North America portal
Yellowstone Park bison herd
Henry Mountains bison herd
Antelope Island bison herd
History of bison conservation in Canada
^ Gates, C. & Aune, K. 2008.
Bison bison. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red
List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1.
<www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 06 September 2012.
^ Geist, V. (1991). "Phantom Subspecies: The Wood Bison,
"athabascae" Rhoads 1897, Is Not a Valid Taxon, but an Ecotype".
Arctic. 44 (4): 283–300. doi:10.14430/arctic1552.
^ Kay, Charles E.; White, Clifford A. (2001). "Reintroduction of Bison
into the Rocky Mountain Parks of Canada: Historical and Archaeological
Evidence" (PDF). Crossing Boundaries in Park Management: Proceedings
of the 11th Conference on Research and Resource Management in Parks
and on Public Lands. Hancock, Michigan: George Wright Soc.
pp. 143–151. Retrieved December 2, 2009.
^ a b Bork, A. M.; Strobeck, C. M.; Yeh, F. C.; Hudson, R. J.; Salmon,
R. K. (1991). "Genetic Relationship of Wood and Plains
Bison Based on
Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphisms" (PDF). Canadian Journal of
Zoology. 69 (1): 43–48. doi:10.1139/z91-007.
^ Halbert, Natalie D.; Raudsepp, Terje; Chowdhary, Bhanu P.; Derr,
James N. (2004). "Conservation Genetic Analysis of the Texas State
Bison Herd". Journal of Mammalogy. 85 (5): 924–931.
^ Wilson, G. A.; Strobeck, C. (1999). "Genetic Variation within and
Relatedness among Wood and Plains
Bison Populations". Genome. 42 (3):
483–496. doi:10.1139/gen-42-3-483. PMID 10382295.
^ Boyd, Delaney P. (2003). Conservation of North American Bison:
Status and Recommendations (PDF) (MS thesis). University of Calgary.
Retrieved December 2, 2009.
Bison Restoration in Alaska,
Alaska Department of Fish &
Game, Division of Wildlife Conservation
^ Species At Risk Registry: Wood Bison
^ Canada Helps Restore Wood
Alaska in International
Conservation Effort to Recover a Threatened Species, Yahoo! Finance,
July 9, 2008
^ Release of bison into
Alaska wilderness put on hold again, Fairbanks
Daily News-Miner, Aug 14, 2011
Alaska Dispatch News
^ Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources - Northwest
Territories, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources - Northwest
^ Gates, Zimov, Stephenson, Chapin. "Wood
Bison Recovery: Restoring
Grazing Systems in Canada,
Alaska and Eastern Siberia". Retrieved
February 9, 2010. CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
^ CBC News, "
Alberta bison bound for Russia", 14 February 2011
^ Edmonton Journal, "Elk Island wood bison big hit in Russia", Hanneke
Brooymans, 5 August 2010
^ Edmonton Journal, "
Bison troubles", CanWest MediaWorks Publications,
5 October 2006
^ CBC News, "More
Alberta bison to roam Russia", 23 September 2013
^ Joly, D. O.; Messier, F. (2004-06-16). "Factors affecting apparent
prevalence of tuberculosis and brucellosis nubs are amazing". Journal
Animal Ecology. 7 (4): 623–631.
doi:10.1111/j.0021-8790.2004.00836.x. Retrieved 2009-04-30.
^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth
Environment Canada's Species at Risk website profile of the wood bison