Species at Risk
What is the Wood bison?
Wood Bison feed mainly on sedges and grasses,
but also on the leaves and bark of trees and shrubs (primarily willow)
© Parks Canada / W. Lynch / 09.90.10.01
(82) / 1987
Wood bison, considered to be a northern subspecies
of the American bison, are the largest land mammals in North America. Males
can stand up to two meters high at the shoulders, and can weigh up to a tonne.
The females are smaller than the males.
Wood bison are darker brown in color than plains bison. They have long legs,
a prominent hump, a short tasseled tail, thick shaggy hair on the head and
neck, and a beard. Their curved black horns and sharp hooves serve as weapons
for defense against predators such as wolves.
Wood bison roam freely through the boreal forest in mixed herds of cows,
calves, yearlings, and a few bulls. Some bulls will form their own groups,
while others roam on their own. Bison have keen hearing and a good sense of
smell, and are able to quickly detect changes in their environment.
Bison are the largest land mammals in North America. A
bull can stand up to two meters in height and weigh more than a tonne. Wood
Buffalo National Park of Canada, Canada’s largest national park, has
the largest free-roaming bison herd in the world.
Bison are at their most dangerous during the rutting season, which occurs
from July to mid-September. During this time the herds are restless, and aggressive
behavior can be seen as the bulls compete with each other to mate with females.
At any time of year, bison should be given a wide berth, as they will sometimes
charge when agitated.
Where is the Wood bison found?
Historically, wood bison ranged throughout northern Alberta, northwestern
Saskatchewan, southwest Northwest Territories, and in the Yukon. Today there
are both wild and captive herds in Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia, Yukon,
and southwest Northwest Territories.
The Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada herd has approximately 5600 animals
(as of 2005), and is the largest free-roaming herd left in the world.