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Wood Bison (Bison bison athabascae) Downlisted to Threatened

May 3, 2012

Keith W. Rizzardi

Wood bison (Bison bison athabascae)

Wood Bison (Bison bison athabascae):
The Wood bison also known as the Mountain bison, Wood buffalo and the Mountain buffalo, is the largest land mammal in North America. The males can weigh over 2,000 lbs and the highest point is ahead of its front legs. They have large horn cores, a darker and woollier pelage, and less hair on their forelegs and beard.
Photo Credit: Parks Canada 77 FR 26191/77, Vol Number 86/Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service/Thursday, May 3, 2012/Rules and Regulations/50 CFR Part 17

AGENCY:      Department of the Interior,  Fish and Wildlife Service,

ACTION: Final Rule Reclassifying the Wood Bison Under the Endangered Species Act as Threatened Throughout Its Range

DATE: Rule becomes effective June 4, 2012

 SUMMARY: On May 3, 2012, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Service published a final rule reclassifying the wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) from endangered to threatened. Based on a review of the best available scientific and commercial data, which indicated that the primary threat that led to population decline, unregulated hunting, was no longer a threat and that recovery actions have led to a substantial increase in the number of herds that have a stable or increasing trend in population size. Critical habitat was not designated because free-ranging wood bison only occur in Canada and the service do not designate critical habitat in foreign countries.

DATES: This rule becomes effective June 4, 2012.

This final rule is available on the Internet at under Docket No. FWS-R9-IA-2008-0123 and at

EXCERPT:  Why we need to publish a rule. We listed the wood bison as endangered in 1970. Since listing, the status of wood bison has improved because enactment and enforcement of national and international laws and treaties have minimized the impacts of hunting and trade, and reintroduction of disease-free herds has increased the

number of free-ranging herds in Canada from 1 population of 300 in 1978, to 7 populations totaling 4,414 bison in 2008. These free-ranging populations are stable or increasing. Therefore, we have determined that the wood bison no longer meets the definition of endangered under the Endangered Species Act.    This rule changes the listing of the wood bison from endangered to threatened.

Basis for our action: While we have determined that the wood bison no longer meets the definition of endangered under the Endangered Species Act, some threats to wood bison remain. Habitat loss has occurred in Canada from agricultural development, and we expect losses will continue in concert with human growth and expansion of agriculture, including commercial bison production. The presence of disease in Canada constrains herd growth, and regulatory mechanisms are inadequate to prevent disease transmission within Canada. However, the continued reintroduction of disease-free herds, the ongoing development and updating of management plans, the active management of herds, the ongoing research, and the protections provided by laws and protected lands provide compelling evidence that recovery actions have been successful in reducing the risk of extinction associated with the threats identified. Therefore, we are reclassifying the wood bison from endangered to threatened.  The majority of comments we received support this action. The majority of comments (13 of 19) supported downlisting. A subset of these comments (7 of the 13) asserted that the Service should delist the species immediately. Three comments stated that wood bison should remain listed as endangered. The peer review comments provided very specific corrections to details about two of the wood bison herds in Canada, and we have updated our information in this rule accordingly, but these changes do not alter our finding.


Post by: Sharon J. Walker

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