Government of Canada sends 40 Wood Bison to the State of Alaska 

News release

A wood bison calf awaiting disease testing at Elk Island National Park, 2020. Photo credit: Parks Canada

Wood bison from Elk Island National Park continue to contribute to the global conservation of the iconic species

April 21, 2022                      Elk Island National Park, AB           Parks Canada Agency

As a recognized leader in conservation, Parks Canada has made lasting contributions to wildlife conservation for over a century, including the recovery of species at risk such as the wood bison.

The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced that 40 wood bison from Elk Island National Park have safely been translocated to the State of Alaska. By transferring bison to establish conservation herds across North America, the Government of Canada is contributing to the restoration and long-term survival of wood bison.

Supporting the relocation of bison has been an important part of Elk Island National Park’s mission for more than a century. Both the wood and plains bison herds from the park have supplied bison to national and international conservation projects. Over the past century, Elk Island has translocated nearly 3000 plains and wood bison to various partners in bison conservation, including several Indigenous groups.

The Alaska wood bison restoration project successfully established a wild wood bison population in western Alaska in 2015. The wild population is currently estimated at over 100 wood bison. Establishing more populations in the coming years is an important goal only possible with the help of Elk Island National Park and its surplus wood bison. 


Additional multimedia

A wood bison calf undergoing disease testing at the Elk Island National Park Wood Bison Handling Facility. Photo credit: Parks Canada


“Our Government is committed to the recovery of bison. The survival of bison from near-extinction is one of Canada’s conservation success stories, where populations of plains and wood bison have been established across North America. This transfer of Canadian bison to help populate Alaska is a historic step in ensuring bison continue to thrive for generations to come.”

The Honourable Steven Guilbeault,
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

“The State of Alaska will be forever grateful that the government of Canada took the steps to save the last remaining wood bison and later established a disease-free population at Elk Island National Park to propagate wood bison for release elsewhere. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game, as directed by the citizens of Alaska, has been pursuing the restoration of wood bison in portions of their original range since 1994. Currently there are over 100 wood bison in the wild in Alaska and around 70 in captivity. More releases into the wild are expected soon.”

Tom Seaton,
Wood Bison Project Biologist
Division of Wildlife Conservation,
Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Quick facts

  • Founded in 1906, Elk Island National Park was established to protect one of the last big elk herds in the region and was the first wildlife refuge in Canada. As the only fully-enclosed national park and located just 35 minutes east of Edmonton, for more than a century Elk Island National Park has drawn visitors to its natural setting and abundance of wildlife viewing opportunities.

  • In 1965, Elk Island was established as a source of wood bison that are healthy and free of introduced cattle genes for reintroduction projects nationally and internationally. Because of their long history of disease-free status, the bison in Elk Island are sought after for national and international conservation projects.

  • In 2008, Elk Island sent 53 wood bison to Alaska which later founded the lower Yukon-Innoko herd located near the village of Shageluk. 

  • Over the past decade, the park has worked closely with Indigenous Nations that have received bison in an effort to bring the culturally significant animal back to its traditional rangeland, while also facilitating cultural and socio-economic opportunities. Since 2016, over 300 bison have been translocated to Indigenous Nations in Canada and the United States.

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Media Relations
Parks Canada Agency

Janelle Verbruggen
Communications Officer
Elk Island National Park

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