Summary of the imminent threat assessment for the Wood Bison
The Minister of the Environment and Climate Change (herein referred to as “the Minister”), as the Minister responsible for Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Parks Canada Agency, has formed the opinion that Wood Bison (Bison bison athabascae) are facing imminent threats to their recovery. The Minister also considered whether there were imminent threats to survival of the species and concluded that such threats do not exist at this time.
The Minister came to this opinion after reviewing an Imminent Threat Assessment that considered the recovery objectives for the species and biological condition of the herds as well as ongoing threats and existing measures to address these threats.
The Wood Bison has been listed as Threatened on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) since 2003, occurring in 12 free-ranging herds (also known as local populations) in Canada and totaling approximately 8,500 individuals. Nine of these herds are currently disease-free. As stated in the federal recovery strategy (2018), the short-term population and distribution objective for Wood Bison is to:
“maintain the disease-free status (free of bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis), population size and range of all disease-free Wood Bison local populations within the original range of Wood Bison in Canada.”
Of the nine free-ranging, disease-free herds of Wood Bison in Canada, only two are subject to threats that could, in the near-term, affect attainment of the short-term recovery objectives outlined in the recovery strategy: the Ronald Lake (RLBH) and Wabasca herds in northeastern Alberta. As a result, the Imminent Threat Assessment focused on these two herds.
To inform the Minister’s opinion, Environment and Climate Change Canada prepared an Imminent Threat Assessment based on the best available information available up to July 2019, including:
- The Recovery Strategy for the Wood Bison (Bison bison athabascae) in Canada 2018
- information from Indigenous communities, the Government of Alberta, and the Parks Canada Agency
- publicly available documents, which includes the Report of the Joint Review Panel for the proposed Teck Resources Limited, Frontier Oil Sands Mine Project (released in July 2019)
The Minister found that Wood Bison are facing threats, which are considered imminent in the sense that immediate intervention is required to allow for recovery.
The imminent threats to the Ronald Lake Herd are the risk of contracting two bovine diseases from diseased bison in Wood Buffalo National Park, as well as range loss from proposed industrial activities. With fewer than 20 individuals in the Wabasca herd, the imminent threat is unregulated harvest.
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