Wildlife Safety and Emergencies

Safety in Bison Country

Wood bison are an important part of the boreal ecosystem and are often found on or near NWT highways. They may seem large and lumbering, but they are unpredictable and can run three times faster than humans, up to 60 km/hr. During the July-September mating season (rut) bulls are more aggressive and may pose an increased danger.

Motor vehicle accidents continue to be a major mortality factor for wood bison in the NWT. The most dangerous time for collisions with bison is August through November, especially along the following highways: 

  • Highway 3 – Fort Providence to Yellowknife
  • Highway 5 – Fort Smith to Big Buffalo Junction
  • Highway 7 – Poplar River to British Columbia border

How we protect public safety

BISON CONTROL AREA: A bison control area has been created to help prevent the spread of disease between bison populations. This area spreads from Sambaa K’e in the west to Enterprise in the east, crossing Highway 1 to the banks of Great Slave Lake and down to the Alberta and British Columbia border. If you see a bison in the control area, report it by contacting your nearest ECC office or calling 1-866-629-6438

HIGHWAY SIGNS: Most bison-human encounters will happen on our highways. You’ll find interpretative signage along these routes reminding you to take extra precautions when driving through bison country.

What you can do

Bison safety when driving

If you see a group of bison standing on or near the road, slow down or stop. Do not approach a bison or exit your vehicle if bison are near the road.

  • Do not get out of your vehicle.
  • Slow down, especially after dark. Bison eyes will glow red in headlights.
  • Stop at least 100 metres from bison on the highway and wait for them to make way.

Bison safety when cycling

If you are cycling, try to avoid surprising bison.

  • Make noise and give them time to become aware of you.
  • ever enter a herd of bison on foot
  • Do not come between two animals, especially a cow and her calf.

Report a sighting

A bison sighting is not an emergency, as long as the animal is where it’s supposed to be — which includes along the sides of highways and anywhere outside of populated areas — and not behaving in a predatory or aggressive way.

REPORT A BISON SIGHTING IF: you see a dead or injured bison, report that to your local ECC office or report a wildlife emergency using the 24-hour emergency wildlife numbers.


For more information on bison safety, read our brochure or visit the website for the Department of Infrastructure.