After more than 100 years of extirpation throughout Alaska, wood bison have found their way back to the state! In collaboration with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, AWCC is working to reintroduce the wood bison back into the Alaska wild. In 2003, 13 wood bison were brought to AWCC from a disease-free herd in the Yukon Territory in Canada. The goal is to release the AWCC herd back into the Alaska wild. Currently, AWCC is home to the only wood bison herd in the United States. The first wood bison calves born in the state of Alaska in over 100 years were born at AWCC in 2005. In 2008, AWCC received 53 calves from Canada and placed them with the existing AWCC herd. Since 2006, AWCC has seen the birth of multiple calves every spring. Look for small orange “lumps” in the exhibit near the bushes!
Wood bison were down listed from “endangered” to “threatened” status in 2012. A special regulation was adopted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in May 2014 declaring them a Nonessential Experimental Population under the 10(j) section of the Endangered Species Act. Among other things, this status stipulates that critical habitat cannot be designated for wood bison, and allows hunting based on sustained yield principles, as established by ADF&G.
The Wood Bison Management Plan was developed by a diverse group of individuals representing 28 interest groups which included local communities, regional population centers, landowners, Alaska Native interests, wildlife conservation interests, industry, and State and Federal agencies. An unprecedented spirit of sharing and finding common solutions guided plan development.
The effort to restore wood bison in Alaska was conceived more than 20 years ago, and is a significant effort in conservation and management of wildlife in the U.S. The boreal forest ecosystem in Alaska has lacked a large, lowland grazing animal for at least a hundred years, and this is a chance to restore a missing part of the ecosystem.
AWCC is teaming up with Bear Trust International and Inspired Classroom to develop science-based education programs rooted in wood bison research and ecology. What better way to celebrate the return of this magnificent species back into the wild? Our conservation education program is designed to engage youth, while simultaneously hone skills in science, math, and technology.
Lessons will meet Alaska and National Science Standards, and will be web-based, project-based and FREE!
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