Wood bison

Nahanni population

The successful re-establishment of the Mackenzie bison population encouraged an attempt to establish another free ranging wood bison population in the NWT in an area of the historical range of wood bison.

In June 1980, 28 wood bison were moved from Elk Island National Park and released in the vicinity of Nahanni Butte. Another 12 bison were released near Nahanni Butte in March 1989. In 1998, 59 animals were released north of Fort Liard. Nahanni wood bison are found throughout the Liard River Valley in the Northwest Territories, the lower reaches of the Liard and Beaver Rivers in British Columbia, and into the Yukon.

Aerial population surveys conducted in 2004 and 2011 and the estimates of 403 and 431, respectively, were similar. A 2017 population survey resulted in an estimate of 960 bison in this population. Sex- and age-classification surveys have been conducted since 2002. These surveys are carried out by boat each July when bison can be found on sand bars along the Liard River. The Nahanni population is considered to be free of bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis.

An annual harvest quota of two males was introduced in 1998; one each for the communities of Fort Liard and Nahanni Butte. Today, the quota is seven.