WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Dozens of Canada's wood bison, who live in northern Alberta and are North America's largest land animals, have been moved to Alaska to establish conservation herds to ensure their long-term survival, the Canadian government said.
Canada has listed the wood bison as a threatened species since 2003. The population has been declining across their range and are at risk of becoming endangered, extirpated, or extinct if nothing is done to protect them, according to the Canadian government's website.
In January 2020, Canada determined that wood bison were"facing imminent threats to their recovery". Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault announced on Thursday (April 21) that 40 wood bison from Elk Island National Park in Alberta were safely translocated to Alaska. Wood bison have dark brown coats with long shaggy fur on their shoulders along with large humps on their backs.
Wood bison, larger than plains bison, once ranged the boreal regions of northwestern Canada and interior Alaska. In the early 1800s, the population may have been 168,000 in Canada, according to the Canadian government.
But habitat loss and other problems took a toll. By the late 1800s, there were only a few hundred left in Canada.
The Alaska wood bison restoration project had established a wild wood bison population in western Alaska in 2015, which is currently estimated at over 100.
Within Canada, wood bison are currently found in British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon and Northwest Territories.