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Thread: Woods Bison...possible reintroduction?

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    Default Woods Bison...possible reintroduction?

    Dave Johnson and all...

    There has been discussion in various places about the possible reintroduction of Woods Bison to the Yukon Flats or the Minto Flats...is this still under consideration? And if so, where does it stand? And what can civilians do to help speed the process along?

    And, Dave, what do think of the idea?

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    Member Chisana's Avatar
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    Default Seems unlikely

    ADF&G has a brochure out describing the possible reintroduction. One of the big hurdles is land ownership on the Yukon flats. You have a mixture of state, federal and private lands that the bison would be roaming on. The state doesn't want to put bison on to private property where access to them might be restricted and the USFWS isn't too keen on introducing a new species. Those are some of the issues. There are others as well.

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    Default Woods Bison....

    Chisana....

    I understood that the Yukon Flats are controlled by the Feds...Am I correct that the Minto Flats are not, and, as such, are under consideration for an alternative site for the reintroduction project?

    I would like to see a sportsmen group pursue this goal, similar to the Alaska Moose Federation. How about you, Mr. Webmaster?

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    Moderator David Johnson's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Wood bison in Alaska?

    I am in favor of reintroducing wood bison to Alaska. I remember being surprised 25 years ago when Dale Guthrie told me that bison were once the most common large land mammals in Alaska. I was surprised again when Bob Stephenson at ADFG in Fairbanks learned that there was an oral tradition of bison hunting among the Gwich'in people in north central Alaska....no one had ever thought to ask them that question, Bob said.

    Wood bison would be better adapted to the taiga forests of Alaska than the plains bison that were introduced near what is now Delta Junction in the late `20's. Wood bison today live largely in northwestern Canada.

    It would be great to have an additional game species to hunt, and it would also be great to contribute to the long term survival of wood bison, currently classed "threatened" in Canada.

    I haven't kept up to date with all the issues surrounding this, but I think Rick is right....some support / pressure from hunters could go a long way to making this a reality.

    Thanks for bringing it up, Rick. What do you think, guys....is this something we should be promoting?

    David
    Last edited by David Johnson; 04-22-2007 at 15:04. Reason: Additional information
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    Default

    Well they don't call our area biologist "Buffalo Bob" (Stephenson) for nothing <grin>. I've kept track of his efforts to reintroduce the wood bison and he has some compelling reasons to do so, especially the oral histories David mentioned that speak to Bison being present a couple hundred years ago.

    Guthrie has radio-carbon data from wood bison going back about 4,500 years, with the most recent about 500 years ago. The evidence suggests that wood bison are indeed an extirpated indigenous species...only controversy is over how long ago were they extirpated for sure, and what the repercussions and viability may be of reintroducing them.

    All the viability studies have been done... how much and what kind of habitat a wood bison needs, and the probability of a herd taking hold after reintro. What seems to be stopping the reintro now is a landowner issue/conflict between various agencies.

    I'd like to see us give the reintroduction a try. Though I do have reservations about the viability of it working and taking hold. Gotta give a lot of kudos to Bob Stephenson; his research and work on this over the years has been beyond the call of duty. He's both informed and passionate about the likelihood of this working.

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    Member Chisana's Avatar
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    Default I hope it happens

    Rick, I don't know much about Minto flats as an alternate site. Might be private land issues over there.

    Mark, You are right Bob has done a lot to keep the wood bison dream alive. I sure hope he is able to pull it off before he retires.

    I think sportsman support would help with this project, especially if there is a group that has traction with the land owners.

  7. #7

    Thumbs up Oral Tradition

    I am an Alaska Native from the coast and I am in support of the reintroduction of Woods Bison to Alaska. All landowners involved should seriously consider this as a opportunity to work together to preserve a "threatened species" that once roamed our wild lands.
    A mechanism/tool needs to be developed to get the landowners (Fed, State and Tribes) working cooperatively together on this reintroduction project, possibly an MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) or MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) or maybe even a Cooperative Agreement between the U.S. Gov't and the Tribes in the proposed area giving the Tribes stewardship and/or co-management responsibilities.
    This is a great opportunity for Woods Bison to once again become part of the oral tradition and history of Alaska's people.
    Here is my other thought; Bison know no land boundaries, let them roam free here in Alaska. Maybe one day my descendents will tell stories of the Wood Bison they saw on Alaska's Coast. This is exciting.

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    Default Wood Bison...

    I'm all for it. Would like to see this become a cause celeb among Alaskan hunters. Popular support, particularly organized support, might help get Fish and Game to prioritize it. Let's promote it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bushrat View Post
    ....The evidence suggests that wood bison are indeed an extirpated indigenous species...only controversy is over how long ago were they extirpated for sure, and what the repercussions and viability may be of reintroducing them.....
    Does anybody know the detailed history of the introduction of Plains bison into Alaska?

    Was there a poorly informed decision to introduce the wrong sub-species? Or was it an attempt to save/proliferate the Plains bison? Or perhaps the wood bison was too rare to re-introduce here at the time?

    All the viability studies have been done... how much and what kind of habitat a wood bison needs, and the probability of a herd taking hold after reintro. What seems to be stopping the reintro now is a landowner issue/conflict between various agencies.
    Now that's a real shame..........

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    Moderator David Johnson's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Why plains bison?

    I don't have source materials at hand, but my memory of the story is that it was even less thoughtful.

    My former boss, Bud Burris, collected quite a bit of information about Alaska game transplants and published it in a 1960's or early `70's vintage publication "Big Game Transplants in Alaska"

    He wrote (as I recall) that in the 1920's Alaska sportsmen were looking for an additional big game animal more portable than moose. In those days, bringing a moose home was more difficult than today. Sportsmen settled on elk, but inquiries by the Alaska Game Commission revealed that elk were not available. Plains bison from the National Bison Range were available, and in the late 1920's 20 some were shipped to Fairbanks by rail, ship, and stern wheeler. From there they were trucked to the area of what is now Delta Junction, because habitat seemed best there.

    Additional information on the wood bison restoration project was released in mid-April by ADFG and can be found on the wildlife conservation division website. The whole project is beginning to heat up, and additional wood bison (there are already some at Portage) may be brought into Alaska in early 2008.

    David
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark View Post
    Does anybody know the detailed history of the introduction of Plains bison into Alaska?

    Was there a poorly informed decision to introduce the wrong sub-species? Or was it an attempt to save/proliferate the Plains bison? Or perhaps the wood bison was too rare to re-introduce here at the time?
    Last edited by David Johnson; 05-05-2007 at 08:26. Reason: Additional information
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    Default Wood Bison...

    Thanks, David. I'm pumped.

    I am under the impression that there were 2 other sites considered for reintroduction... the Minto Flats, and, I believe, somewhere on the Innoko River. Is that correct?

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    Moderator David Johnson's Avatar
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    Default Reintroduction areas

    That's right. The Yukon Flats might be a natural for this, but as I understand it, the USFWS has taken the position so far that this would constitute the introduction of an exotic, and has so far opposed the concept.

    David

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    Thanks, David. I'm pumped.

    I am under the impression that there were 2 other sites considered for reintroduction... the Minto Flats, and, I believe, somewhere on the Innoko River. Is that correct?
    David M Johnson
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    Default

    I'm unclear why people think this would work. It seems a little far fetched to believe that pre-contact athabaskans extirpated this species. I can't imagine humans hunting with spears, bows, etc. in forested country could wipe out a whole population of these animals. If indeed this is what happened, for this area to stay devoid of bison, the extirpated population would have had to have already been an isolated population. Otherwise, new bison would have re-populated the area.
    It seems more likely that, in addition to human killing, the habitat in this area changed and bison breeding was effected also. I would be suspicious that this area has once again become good bison habitat in something less than 300 years.
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    Moderator David Johnson's Avatar
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    Default Pre contact bison

    When I talked to Dale Guthrie about this years ago, he explained that Alaska's Interior has changed from predominately steppe vegetation to taiga forest since the last glacial period.

    The bison would have prospered in the steppes, and succeeded less well in the more forested country.

    But even in forested country there are meadows of grasses...like old lake beds. The plains bison brought to the Farewell area from Delta Junction in the 60's have never particularly prospered, although after the big burn there in the 80's, they did fairly well for a time. But my point is even plains bison can survive in certain areas of the Interior, and wood bison are better adapted to the taiga.

    I doubt we'll see big herds of them, but I am sure that they will survive. If the wolves and bears don't figure out how to take them for a while, it will allow their populations to increase more rapidly. The wolves have never really figured out how to take Delta bison.

    David

    Quote Originally Posted by martentrapper View Post
    I'm unclear why people think this would work. It seems a little far fetched to believe that pre-contact athabaskans extirpated this species. I can't imagine humans hunting with spears, bows, etc. in forested country could wipe out a whole population of these animals. If indeed this is what happened, for this area to stay devoid of bison, the extirpated population would have had to have already been an isolated population. Otherwise, new bison would have re-populated the area.
    It seems more likely that, in addition to human killing, the habitat in this area changed and bison breeding was effected also. I would be suspicious that this area has once again become good bison habitat in something less than 300 years.
    David M Johnson
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    Default

    There is reports of Wood Bison being seen in Alaska as late as 1920s. The elders talk about their grandfathers hunting them to feed the village. This is in the report given out Wednesday night to the Fairbanks A/C.

    I for one have a problem with the release site of the Yukon Flats. There the animals will be released on private land. Land that is restricted for hunting to only members of that corporation. Yes there is Federal land nearby, but just like the Musk-ox project I worked on back in the late 70s and early 80s, I am afraid that the Feds will make it a subsistance herd. We keep asking why not release the animals on state land at Minto. There the state could keep control of the herd, and the herd would be more accessiable due to the road system. F&G will not entertain any idea but the Yukon Flats as the initial release site. I feel that Minto would make a better release site. If for no other reason than it is the best suited for transportation. The first release will be a learning process, and working with large animals can be hazardous for the workers and for the animals. Going to Minto can be done all by truck, with the least handling. Load them into a truck and truck them to Minto. No transfers. Going to the Yukon Flats, they have to be trucked to Fairbanks, then transfered to an airplane and flown to Ft Yukon. Or driven to Circle and barged to Ft Yukon.

    F&G is requesting public commt on the project. It would be a good idea for everyond to get in touch with F&G and let them know how you feel. The release sites found acceptiable with good habitate are Minto Flats, Innoko River area, and the Yukon Flats.

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    Thumbs up Wood Bison...

    Greybeard....

    Do you have addresses for comments and info?

    I agree comcering the Minto Flats...from my experience, there seems to be a drying trend out there with many of the ponds shrinking. I'd like to add my 2 cents to the comments.

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