The largest terrestrial mammal in North America, the wood bison is a dark brown bovine animal with a large head, a high hump on its shoulder, which is covered with long shaggy hair that extends to the front legs. The horns are short and black and tend to curve inward for the males, while being straight in females.
|Scientific Name||Bison bison athabascae|
|Other Names||Mountain Bison, Wood Buffalo, Mountain Buffalo|
|Size||Females (cows) are shorter than the males (bulls);
Head-tail length: 3.04 metres to 3.80 metres;
Shoulder height: 1.67 m to 1.82 m
|Weight||Males: 2000lbs(900Kgs); Females: 1200lbs(550Kgs)|
|Color||Dark Brown at maturity; Red at birth|
|Distribution||Forest regions of Alaska, Yukon, Western part of Canada’s Northwest territories, North-eastern British Columbia, Northern Alberta and North-western Saskatchewan|
|Habitat||Open boreal and aspen forests with large wet meadows and depressions left by ancient lakes|
|Sounds||It snorts, grunts, and growls; bulls use a loud, hollow noise to threaten each other during fights|
|Lifespan||20 years; some have been known to live up to 40 years|
|Diet||Grazing on grasses, sedges and forbs. Summer diet includes silverberry and willow leaves.|
|Adaptations||Calves can stand within 30 minutes of birth and can run and kick hours after birth in order to ward off predators.|
|Diseases and Parasites||Anthrax, brucellosis and tuberculosis.|
|Number of offspring||A litter of 1 calf twice over a period of 3 years|
|Gestation Period||270-300 days|
|IUCN Conservation Status||Near Threatened|
Female wood bison and their calves live in herds of 20 to 60 members. Adult males tend to live in smaller groups separate from the bigger groups of females and calves except during the mating season during the late summer. They are very protective of one another.
Mating and reproduction
A female wood bison reaches sexual maturity at 2 years of age and can produce her first litter by age 3. Their mating season starts from August and extends till around October. It would generally bear the calf for at least 9-10 months, and give birth during April-August. They generally give birth to a single calf, although have been known to produce twins on rare occasions.
Calves are born with a red coat, which starts to darken by the 10th week, gradually culminating in a dark brown shade by the 15th week of their existence.
- The wood bison had actually been extirpated from Alaska and become endemic to Canada until they were reintroduced in the Alaskan boreal forests.
- In spite of having a home range, wood bison migrate to greener meadows during seasonal changes.
- In 2006, a herd of wood bison was established in Yakutia, Russia, where its relative the steppe bison became extinct over 6000 years ago.