An American and Departmental icon brought back to Western Alaska after more than a century
After a 150 year hiatus, this American and Departmental icon is making a comeback in Western Alaska, thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Safari Club International, and more than 30 other partners. In spring 2015, 130 wood bison were reintroduced to their historical range in Western Alaska from which they were extirpated over a century ago. The wood bison were released south of the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge near Shageluk, and quickly adapted to their new home. They appear to be in excellent health, and 16 calves were born in 2015 and 17 calves in 2016. The population is increasing in number, and a larger calf crop is expected in spring of 2017.
Recovery of wood bison is a high profile conservation success and a great example of what can be accomplished with the support of partners. Establishment of additional populations could further recover this species. ADF&G, with funding through WSFR grants, has the means and expertise for additional introductions, providing benefits to Alaska’s people and economy, including recreational and subsistence hunters and wildlife viewers. In time, recreational and subsistence hunters will be able to hunt wood bison in Western Alaska. The project continues to receive tremendous local support from Western Alaska communities.
The FWS’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program has contributed $1.4 million to restore this icon back to Alaska, including $545,000 from the Wildlife Restoration Program and $682,000 from the State Wildlife Grant Program. This funding has been matched with over $1 million in state and other non-federal funding.