Wood bison are classified as At Risk in the General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:
Also see the Status of the Wood Bison in Alberta report at:
This species is also listed as Endangered under the Wildlife Act, but only in a defined portion of north-western
Alberta (the range of the Hay-Zama herd). See more information on this species and the assessment and listing process at:
- Free-roaming wood bison found in northwestern Alberta’s Bison Protection Area (see map) are considered to be wildlife, and receive protection under the Wildlife Act. It is illegal to hunt, harm, or traffic in the bison within this area without a licence.
- Map of Alberta’s Bison Protection Area- Jan 2017 (1 Page, <1 MB)
- The free-roaming Ronald Lake bison herd found in northeastern Alberta also receives protection as a Subject Animal under the Wildlife Regulation, Alberta Regulation 143/97. Hunting of this herd is closed until further notice in the area bounded to the north by Wood Buffalo National Park, to the east by the Athabasca River, to the south by the 25th Baseline and to the west by the west boundary of Range 18, west of the 4th Meridian. The closure does not affect the hunting of bison for subsistence by persons who hold a constitutional right to do so in this area.
- Map of Ronald Lake bison herd hunting closure area- Jan 2017 (1 Page, <1 MB)
- Some free-roaming bison in and around Wood Buffalo National Park carry tuberculosis and brucellosis (introduced livestock diseases). To protect the Hay-Zama herd, and domestic livestock in northern Alberta, bison outside of the two areas described above receive no protection.
Beginning in 2008, a carefully-controlled hunt of the Hay-Zama herd in WMUs 536 and 539, within the Bison Protection Area, was started to control population growth and to undertake disease surveillance. If the Hay-Zama recovery herd becomes infected, it will probably have to be destroyed. Until the disease threat from Wood Buffalo National Park can be eliminated, these control measures will need to be continued. For more information, visit the My Wild Alberta website at:
- A disease containment approach has been developed to reduce the risk of tuberculosis and brucellosis spreading to domestic livestock and to the Hay-Zama herd. For details, see:
Are wood bison really wood bison?
Historically, there were two subspecies of bison found in Alberta – wood bison in northern boreal areas, and plains bison to the south. Given intermixing, the wild bison currently found in Alberta’s far north are hybrids of plains and wood bison; however, they are still generally referred to as "wood bison".
Plains bison once occupied more open areas further south in Alberta (and across the Great Plains of North America) but, in the 1800s, were extirpated as a free-roaming species from their original range in the province.
A captive herd of pure plains bison currently occurs in Alberta in a portion of Elk Island National Park and, in early 2017, a small group of these bison will be released into an enclosure in Banff National Park, with the intent of establishing a free-ranging herd there. Plains Bison affiliated with Saskatchewan’s McCusker River herd occasionally enter Alberta north of the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range.
Updated: Jul 13, 2018