Endangered Species
Alaska Region   


Wood bison (Bison bison athabascae)

Learn more about the wood bison reintroduction project.

Designation: Threatened

Wood bison appear very similar to plains bison but are slightly bigger, with mature males weighing up to 2,000 pounds.  They predominantly use open meadows interspersed among woodlands and feed on grasses and sedges. 

Critical Habitat: None designated

Distribution: Historically found throughout Alaska and Canada.  Today, seven free-ranging herds with approximately 4,000 animals are now only found in Alberta, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon Territory, Canada.

Threats:  Numbers originally declined from hunting, especially in Canada.  Current threats are minimal and herd sizes are growing.  However, these animals are susceptible to bovine tuberculosis, bovine brucellosis, and anthrax.  Some Canadian populations are affected by these diseases.  Commercial production of plains bison in Canada reduces the amount of potential habitat available for wood bison and also increases the risk of hybridization between the two subspecies.

Conservation efforts: Conservation efforts: The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has been working on a plan to reintroduce wood bison back to Alaska. Towards that end, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center has cared for a growing herd of captive wood bison near Girdwood, Alaska, and in 2014, the Service cleared the way for reintroduction of the animals to areas in Interior Alaska consistent with the Endangered Species Act. In Canada, conservation efforts, including reintroduction of disease-free herds, have led to an increase in the number of herds from one in 1978 to seven herds now, with over 4,000 animals total.

Contacts: Regional Endangered Species Coordinator, 907-786-3323

More detailed information:
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Species Profile
Alaska Department of Fish & Game Species Profile
Canada’s Species At Risk Profile
Management of wood bison in the Yukon Territory, Canada
Fact sheet


Last updated:April 15, 2014