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The survival of bison from near extinction is one of Canada’s conservation success stories.

In April 2024, as part of an agreement between Parks Canada and the State of Alaska, 40 wood bison from Elk Island National Park in Alberta were relocated to Alaska to establish separate herds on the wild landscape. This was the third such transfer of this iconic species (previous occurred in 2008 and 2022) with further transfers planned for 2026 and 2028.

As North America’s largest land mammal, millions of bison once ranged across the continent from Alaska to Mexico and were an important resource for Indigenous peoples who lived on the plains.

At the turn of the 20th century, wild wood bison were nearing extinction. When almost all hope for bison seemed lost, the Canadian government purchased one of the last herds of bison and between 1907 and 1912 shipped over 700 wild bison by train to Elk Island National Park in Alberta. Bison have found a protected sanctuary at Elk Island for over a hundred years.

Since then, supporting the relocation of disease-free bison has been an important part of Elk Island National Park’s mission. Because of their long history of disease-free status, both the wood and plains bison herds in Elk Island National Park have supplied bison to national and international projects. In total over the past century, Elk Island has translocated over 3500 plains and wood bison to conservation sites around the globe.

Supported by the work of Elk Island National Park, Canada and Alaska are contributing to the global survival and restoration of an iconic and majestic animal, and pledge to continue these efforts in the future.


Find out more on the State of Alaska’s News Release.