Wood Bison Hunt - Disease Surveillance

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In the spring of 2008, it was determined that a highly regulated hunting season would be necessary to control the numbers and distribution of the Hay-Zama herd. The first wood bison hunting season in the history of Alberta was instituted to:

  • Limit bison distribution eastward preventing potential contact with diseased bison from Wood Buffalo National Park
  • Maintain the Hay-Zama wood bison population between 400 and 600 thus limiting distribution Reduce bison conflicts with humans in the communities of Zama City and Chateh
  • Reduce bison-vehicle collisions on area infrastructure roads, the Zama Highway and Highway 58

The first resident wood bison season was conducted in the fall of 2008/09 and has continued annually with the exception of 2013/14, when severe winter weather resulted in bison mortality and the season was suspended to allow for herd recovery. Over 7 seasons 1,455 licences have been issued resulting in a harvest of 691 bison. For the 2016/17 season a total of 375 licences will be issued to Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal hunters with an anticipated harvest of 180 bison.

Yes, the hunt has been successful in reducing human-bison conflicts on roads (vehicle collisions) and in communities. The expansion of the Hay-Zama herd’s range has been reduced to prevent exposure to diseased bison from Wood Buffalo National Park.

To date, all bison from the Hay Zama region have tested negative for tuberculosis and brucellosis.

Prior to the hunting seasons, disease testing of Hay-Zama wood bison was conducted by sampling animals that died as a result of vehicle collisions or animals that were put down as a result of conflicts in communities. During the hunting seasons, hunters were asked to provide samples for disease testing. A total of 279 useable samples were received and because all samples tested negative, testing has been suspended and is scheduled to resume for the 2016/2017 season. All bison hunters will receive detailed sampling information.

Bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis are infectious diseases that primarily affect cattle and can affect humans and wildlife such as bison.

Bovine tuberculosis is a federal reportable disease in Canada and, as such, the federal agriculture department is committed to eradication of the disease in domestic livestock and captive wildlife.

Brucellosis is a world-wide concern in domestic cattle. The disease causes significant economic losses and is a potential human health risk. Both tuberculosis and brucellosis persist in free-ranging bison in Wood Buffalo National Park.

  • Maintain the population within a range of 400-600 animals and adjust accordingly for community and vehicle conflicts, as well as disease risk issues.
  • Continue an annual hunt over much of the winter as a mechanism to control the size of the herd, reduce human/bison conflict and to provide opportunity for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal hunters
  • Continue to monitor the herd for range distribution to the east – limit disease risk with bison from in and around Wood Buffalo National Park. Ensure bison distribution does not extend east to the Highway 35 bison-free zone.
  • Continue to monitor (voluntary) for bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis within the herd to maintain disease-free status.
  • Continue to monitor frequency and duration of bison occurrences along roads in fall and winter and the vehicle bison collision rate.

Updated: May 13, 2016