The Wood bison is the northern cousin of the Plains bison that roams many states down-below. It is bigger than the Plains bison and a large, mature bull will often weigh 2,250 pounds versus the 1,900 pounds of the smaller Plains. A mature cow will weigh about 1,000 pounds. Calves are born in May to July and are a reddish color for a few weeks. They begin to grow horns and develop a bison’s “hump” at about two months.
Wood Bison Reintroduction Program
After more than 100 years of extinction in Alaska, wood bison have found their way back to the state of Alaska. The first of the AWCC Wood Bison herd arrived in November 2003 from the Yukon Territory in Canada and is part of a wood bison recovery program designed to reintroduce the species to Alaska. AWCC is home to the only wood bison herd in the United States.
Wood Bison will be released in the lower Innoko and Yukon River area. (This is not the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge). The Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) plans to release 100 female and young bison near Shageluk, about 300 miles west of Anchorage, in spring 2015. Six loads of 14-30 bison (depending on age and sex of the animals) will be placed in specially designed containers trucked from AWCC to Anchorage International Airport and flown in C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft to Shageluk. The bison will be held in temporary pens outside of Shageluk and will be released after they have acclimated to the area. After the release, they will be closely monitored for at least 1-2 years.
Starting with 100 animals provides sufficient genetic diversity of the founder population and adequate reproductive potential to allow an excellent chance of success of the restoration effort.
Wood bison hold the distinction as the largest land animal in North America. The first wood bison calves born in the state of Alaska in over 100 years were born at AWCC in 2005. In 2006, 7 calves were born and we have had 10 new-born calves this year (look for small orange “lumps” in the exhibit near the bushes).