The wood bison is considered by most a subspecies of the American plains bison, but some argue that they are a distinctly separate subspecies. The two bison are somewhat different in appearance. The wood bison is larger and has a slightly different body type then that of the plains .
The herd of wood bison I saw along the Alaska Highway was from the Norquist herd. Here is a little history about them:
- In the early 1800’s over 168,000 wood bison inhabited the forests of North West North America.
- In the early 1900’s wood bison populations declined sharply due to over hunting.
- In 1906 The last wood bison was shot in Northern British Columbia.
- In 1959 an isolated northern population of about 200 relatively pure Wood Bison was confirmed. (all other wood bison at that time were hybridized with American buffalo)
- In 1985 wood bison were (and still are) classed as “Threatened” under the Species At Risk Act.
- In 1995 49 wood bison were reintroduced to Nodquist area in British Columbia.
- In 2007 the Nordquist herd population numbered about 100 animals.
- In 2010 the roadside count was 108 animals.
- Today it’s believed that the Nordquist group consists of three herds with a total population of approximately 200 animals. There are several other groups which are reaching a target population of about 500.
The Nordquist herd territory can be seen in the map below:
The yellow line is the Liard Highway which branches off the Alaskan Highway at Fort Nelson.
I was happy to see these beasties along the Alaska and Liard Highways….