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Wood Bison (Bison bison athabascae) is the largest land mammal in North America. A subspecies of the American Bison, this species has a unique profile and ecological importance. This introduction will focus on providing an overview of Wood Bison characteristics including physical features, history and population trends as well as discussing their current conservation status.

Wood Bison are often referred to as ‘grizzly-like’ due to their shaggy coats that turn grizzled grey with age. The average adult male stands just over 2 meters tall at the shoulder, with some specimens reaching heights of up to 3 meters. They can weigh between 700 to 1,000 kilograms – twice that of Plains Bison – and have large heads with massive horns that curve outward.

Historically Wood Bison were widely distributed across Canada’s boreal forest ranging from Alaska down through Alberta into northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba. However by 1925 they had been extirpated from much of their range, resulting in a drastic decline in numbers throughout the 20th century; it is estimated there were only around 200 individuals left by the 1960s when efforts began for their recovery and protection.

Species Overview

Wood bison is an endangered species of large mammal native to North America. It is the largest land animal in Canada, and one of the two subspecies of American bison (the other being plains bison). Wood bison are distinguished from plains bison by their larger size and darker coloration. They also have longer horns than those found on plains bison.

Once ranging across much of northern Canada and Alaska, wood bison populations were greatly reduced due to overhunting and habitat loss. Currently, wood bisons can be found in small herds within a few isolated areas such as Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories, and Alberta.

Conservation efforts for this species focus primarily on population monitoring and management, which includes programs aimed at increasing reproductive success through supplementation feeding during winter months. In addition, captive breeding has been used to increase numbers in some areas where they have disappeared altogether.

Other conservation strategies include reintroduction into suitable habitats, controlling predators that target young calves or sick individuals, reducing threats from human activities such as resource extraction or road construction near critical wildlife refuges, and enhanced public education about the importance of conserving these iconic animals.

Overall, there has been considerable progress in protecting this species since its decline first began but more work needs to be done if we are to ensure that future generations will be able to experience seeing wild wood bisons roaming freely throughout their range.

Habitat And Range

Wood bison are native to North America and have a wide range of habitats. They inhabit boreal, mixed-wood, and grassland forests in the northern parts of Canada and Alaska. Wood bison also inhabit open meadows and plains that extend from Alberta through Saskatchewan in western Canada. In addition, wood bison occupy areas along rivers that flow into Hudson Bay, as well as some regions within Siberia.

Wood bison range across several countries including United States (Alaska), Canada (Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories, Alberta, Saskatchewan) and Russia (Siberia). The estimated total population size of wood bison is approximately 9500 individuals spread across these countries making it one of the rarest species in North America today.

Although this species has been reintroduced in many locations around its historic range over the years due to conservation efforts, their numbers remain low with much work still needing to be done.

Although once widespread throughout North American continent ranging southwards into Mexico historically prior to European settlement, modern day distributions are restricted mainly to Canada’s northern provinces and territories and Alaska USA due primarily to human activity like hunting which nearly drove them extinct by 19th century coupled with land transformation for agricultural purposes leading to loss of suitable wood bison habitat ranges.

Bison’s Predators Revealed: Unveiling the Threats

Physical Characteristics

Wood bison are the largest land mammals in North America, ranging from 2.4 to 3 meters in length and weighing up to 900 kilograms. They have a thick brown fur with black patches around their eyes, muzzle, neck and legs; white stockings on their front feet; dark horns that reach lengths of up to 50 cm; and a tall shoulder hump comprised of muscle mass used for pushing through snow or mud.

Their long noses help filter out dust particles when they graze on vegetation. Wood bisons also possess an especially large head compared to other wild bovines which gives them increased strength and power while fighting predators.

The wood bison is recognized by its wide range of body size, fur coloration, horn length, shoulder hump height and nose shape. Females tend to be smaller than males but still weigh between 500-700 kg at maturity.

Coloration varies among individuals as well, yet all retain a distinctively dark coat and lighter facial features like eye rings and muzzles that contrast against the darker colors found on the rest of the body. Horns generally grow longer as animals age until reaching full adult size at four years old after which growth stops.

The shoulders typically form into rounded humps as adults whereas juveniles may not exhibit such pronounced musculature due to their physical immaturity. Lastly, wood bisons have long pointed snouts adapted for grazing varied vegetation without fear of inhaling too much dust or debris during feeding activities.

In general, wood bison demonstrate unique characteristics that allow for easy identification in the field whether it be body size, fur coloration, horn length, presence of a muscular hump over their shoulders or characteristic nose shape.

Diet And Feeding Habits

Wood bison have a varied diet consisting of browse species, grasses and forbs. They are primarily browsers that feed on low-growing woody vegetation such as willow, birch, poplar and other twigs and leaves.

They also consume lichens and mushrooms in winter months when they are available. Grazing is important during summer months when the standing biomass of grasses is high. Wood bison will often move to areas where there is more appropriate grazing vegetation depending on seasonality.

Foraging behavior varies by sex, age class and nutritional requirements. Adult males tend to travel further than adult females due to their larger body size; however, both sexes may travel up to several kilometers daily in search of suitable food resources.

Juveniles generally forage closer to home ranges due to their smaller body size and lower mobility compared with adults. In addition, juveniles select higher quality foods than adults but only marginally so due to their lesser experience in locating optimal feeding sites.

Wood bison display seasonal variation in dietary composition related to availability of different plant types throughout the year. Summer diets consist mainly of herbaceous plants while winter diets include coniferous trees and shrubs supplemented with grasses or sedges if accessible.

Overall, wood bison appear able to adapt successfully across various habitats providing sufficient access to key plant components needed for sustenance throughout the year.

Breeding And Reproduction

Wood bison breed from late June to mid-July, with the peak of breeding activity usually occurring in early July. Breeding behavior is characterized by a loud bellowing sound and head tossing during courtship rituals between males and females.

During this period, wood bison tend to move away from their wintering grounds and congregate on traditional calving grounds that were used by previous generations. Males will compete aggressively for access to females during the brief mating season.

The gestation period lasts around 285 days, typically resulting in offspring being born in May or June of the following year. Calves are very small at birth but can stand within half an hour after they’re born and begin nursing shortly afterwards. The survival rate of calves is high; mortality rates are lowest among those born before mid-June when temperatures are still cool and food resources plentiful.

In addition to providing nutrition for newborns, mothers also provide protection against predators until calves have grown strong enough to defend themselves. After about 4 months old, young bison start joining group adventures where they learn important life skills such as grazing habits and predator avoidance strategies from more experienced members of the herd.

Conservation Status

The conservation status of wood bison is precarious. This species was listed as endangered in the US Endangered Species Act and CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) due to its low population numbers, with only an estimated 5000 individuals left in the wild.

In Canada, a recovery plan for this species has been launched which includes decreasing threats from human activities such as overhunting, habitat destruction and fragmentation. Additionally, reintroduction efforts have been implemented by several government agencies to increase the number of wood bison populations.

The habitat requirements of wood bison can differ depending on the season; they typically prefer high elevation pastures during summer months to graze on forage such as sedges, rushes, grasses, herbs, shrubs, lichens, mosses and other vegetation. During wintertime when food is scarce they will move down the mountain slopes to lower elevations where there might be more available plants or trees to eat.

Conservation programs have sought to restore natural habitats so that they can support larger herds of this species. These efforts include reforestation projects aimed at increasing available food sources for wood bison, as well as creating buffer zones between their habitats and areas where humans are present.

Reintroductions into suitable habitats have also occurred across various parts of North America including Alberta and Yukon Territory in Canada. Preliminary results suggest positive population trends in these regions since the implementation of these conservation efforts however more research needs to be done to assess the long-term effectivity of these initiatives.

In addition to habitat protection and restoration strategies, education campaigns are being used to raise awareness among local communities about how important it is to conserve this species and its fragile ecosystem.

By informing people about their role in protecting wood bison populations, there is hope that further measures will be taken by governments and citizens alike towards conserving this iconic species for future generations.

Human Interaction

Wood bison are the largest land mammal in North America and have been a part of Native peoples’ culture for centuries. Human interaction has had both positive and negative impacts on wood bison conservation, which will be discussed below:

  • Native peoples have traditionally hunted wood bison to maintain their sustainable subsistence lifestyles. This hunting was done with respect for the animal’s lives as well as an understanding that it was not possible to hunt them all year round due to their migrating habits;
  • The introduction of firearms into some native cultures by European settlers allowed for more efficient hunting, resulting in over-harvesting of wood bison populations;
  • In recent years, Native people have worked alongside government agencies and environmental groups to help conserve remaining herds and establish new ones through translocation efforts;
  • Climate change is another challenge that must be addressed when considering how human interaction affects wood bison conservation. Rising temperatures can affect water sources, migration patterns and food availability for these large mammals.

Therefore, it is clear that human interaction plays an important role in determining the future of this species’ survival. Effective management practices are needed to ensure healthy numbers while also respecting traditional harvesting rights held by many native communities who depend on the resources provided by wild animals like the wood bison. It is essential that we understand the implications of our actions so that we may protect this magnificent creature now and into the future.


Despite their impressive size, wood bison are actually quite docile in nature and have an interesting relationship with humans. They can be found inhabiting the northern plains of North America, where they thrive on a diet consisting primarily of grasses and sedges. These animals possess several physical characteristics that set them apart from other species, such as large horns that help to protect them against predators.

Wood bison breed during specific times of the year, typically following seasonal changes in temperature or rainfall levels. Their populations have declined significantly over recent decades due to hunting and habitat loss caused by human activities.

Conservation efforts are now underway to ensure their continued survival into the future. In particular, Canada has reintroduced wood bison back into some areas of their former range in an effort to restore population numbers and promote genetic diversity amongst remaining herds.

Overall, wood bison remain one of the most iconic species of North American wildlife today despite facing serious threats from anthropogenic activities. Through increased conservation efforts and public awareness about these majestic creatures, we can work towards ensuring healthy populations for many years to come.