Wood Bison Herd to be Culled Because of Size
Herd scheduled to be released into the wild in 2014
PORTAGE - The North American wood bison was extinct in Alaska for more than 100 years. Now their numbers are thriving at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC). So much so, the herd is getting too big and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says it has to cull ten of the animals.
“We're disappointed. I think Fish and Game is disappointed as well. No one wants to see it come to that but the reality is for the overall health of the heard here, there's only so much land and resources we can dedicate to these animals,” said Ethan Tyler from AWCC.
The herd is part of the Wood Bison Restoration program that started in 2003. The animals were scheduled to be released into the wild a couple years ago but administrative red tape with the Endangered Species Act prevented that.
"These animals should be released. An animal on the endangered species act doesn't need to be behind a fence in Portage. It needs to be back in the wild where it once lived,” said Mike Miller, AWCC Executive Director.
To keep numbers down the males are separated from the females and breeding will be restricted to ten calves this year, compared to 35 last spring. The herd will be kept to 135 bison after ten of the oldest bulls are put down.
“If we released them into the wild in 2014, it would be like putting a 90-year-old man out there. They'd have a hard time surviving. You'd only be feeding the predators,” said Miller.
Fish and Game will euthanize the animals sometime this winter. The meat will be given to charities, while the hides and skulls will be donated to educational organizations.
The bison are tentatively scheduled to be released into the wild in 2014.