Wood Bison

Hello friend! We are at one of the Wood Bison fields at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, home of the Wood Bison Restoration Project!

Some may wonder, what’s the difference between these guys and the ones in the lower 48? Interestingly enough, they all stem from the same ancestor, the great North American Bison. As times and climates change, animals evolve and adapt to their surroundings. Much like there are different subspecies in other classes of animals, we have the same situation happening for bison. There are the northern Wood Bison, and southern Plain’s bison. Wood bison are typically found throughout the northern regions of Canada (and now Alaska) whereas Plain’s bison are typically found in the lower 48 states.

Wood bison have developed specific characteristics to help set them apart from their southern cousins, all which help make them the true largest land mammal in North America, and winter conquerors. Typically, wood bison are slightly larger at the shoulder, with males ranging in size from 2400 – 2800 pounds. Females typically settle in just under 2000 pounds, a strong healthy cow will easily reach 1800 pounds. Not something you want to dance toe to toe with, so please remember to respect their space when they approach the fence lines for a drink of water.

The AWCC has a unique connection to these wood bison, and the wood bison currently roaming in Alaska. Wood bison were on the extinction list for 17 years prior to a pure-bred herd being discovered in the northern regions of Canada in the early 1900s. It’s from this small herd of bison that the success and conservation of wood bison has stemmed from in modern times. Canada has had great success rebuilding the herd to the point that they are one of the only animals to have been removed from the extinction list!

Wondering about the connection? In 2003 there was a small herd brought to the AWCC for the beginning of a restoration project for wood bison in Alaska. These original 13, with the help of an additional 50 animals from Canada in 2008, helped the AWCC grow a herd of 130 bison to get released in the spring of 2015. These bison were released by both plane and boat to the Lower Innoko River Region of Alaska; due West of the AWCC.

Both the wild herd and the herds you’re currently viewing are doing well. The wild population has had some fluctuation since 2015 due to learning how to become “wild” bison, and not getting a delivery service of food all the time. We are excited to continue to support the conservation efforts of the wild herd and hope to continue releasing young animals from the AWCC into the wild. These animals are herd animals, so will have no trouble linking up with their kin and learning the ropes on how to be bison.

Getting There

Latitude: 60.8286
Longitude: -148.987258
Driving Directions