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Wood Bison Reintroduction Update

According to a Reuters report, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) have agreed to designate a captive population of wood bison a “non-essential, experimental” herd.

Wood bison at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (Photo by J. Schaul)

Through negotiations that culminated in drafting the 10 (j) rule, which is a provision under the Endangered Species Act that allows for more flexible management of population with this “non-essential, experimental” designation, Alaska’s captive and only extant wood bison herd is now a step closer to being reintroduced into the wild.

Currently, managed at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, which is a game animal sanctuary south of Anchorage, the herd has grown from a little more than a few head of bison to approximately 130 animals.

The wood bison is the largest terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere, reaching a size larger than the more common subspecies of American bison, the plains bison, which is often referred to as its southern cousin.

As mentioned in an earlier post regarding this reintroduction project, “This effort will not only increase the worldwide population of wood bison, but will be a significant event in northern ecosystem restoration efforts, resulting in the reestablishment of a keystone grazing herbivore to what were once natural-grazed ecological communities.”