Wood Bison Hunt - Disease Surveillance

Changes in Bison Status and New Bison Protection Areas

Through a Ministerial Order, Alberta has listed wild wood bison in disease-free populations as Threatened to make it easier to recover, protect and manage wood bison populations in the province. Recovering these populations will ensure sustainable bison populations in northern Alberta to provide ecological benefits, support food security for Indigenous communities, and provide additional hunting opportunities for Albertans in the future.

This designation is linked to specified Wildlife Management Units in northern parts of the province, where wood bison will be protected as a threatened species. For more information, see Wood Bison Regulation.

Open All

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 population. 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 to 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 continued annually with the exception of 2013/14, when severe winter weather resulted in bison mortality and the season was suspended to allow for population recovery. Over 7 seasons 1,455 licences have been issued resulting in a harvest of 691 bison. Surveys are conducted each year to estimate population size and determine harvest quotas. Due to low population numbers the Hay-Zama hunt has been suspended since 2017/18 to allow for population recovery.

Yes, the hunt has been successful in reducing human-bison conflicts on roads (vehicle collisions) and in communities. The expansion of the Hay-Zama population 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.

Over 350 samples have been tested and all samples tested negative. During seasons with an active hunt, voluntary submission of tissue or blood samples from harvested bison will continue to be request to enable disease testing.

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 population, reduce human/bison conflict and to provide opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous hunters
  • Continue to monitor the population 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 population 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: Nov 16, 2021