Bison In Alaska: Everything You Need To Know About Them

Last Updated on September 14, 2023 by Amin Tawar

Bison In Alaska

The biggest state in the country also hosts the biggest range of animals. Typically, due to its harsh cold climate, you would think that the state would have less diversity among its faunae. 

But no, there is a wide variety of animals from terrestrial polar bears to marine life. It is also important to know that few states in the region have pastures of grasslands. 

But does this mesmerizing and tourist-popular state host the Bison as well?

Below In this article, I’ve explained everything you need to know about the presence of Bison in the state.

Are There Any Bison in Alaska?

Definitely, there is a good population of Bison in Alaska. In fact, various fossils recently discovered in the state belong to Bison. This indicates the fact that Bison has been inhabiting the state since the Pleistocene era which is about 1.6 million years ago.

The state is home to both wood bison and plain bison. While the plain Bison are not native to the state and were introduced, the wood bison have been inhabiting the state for many centuries. 

Does Alaska Have Bison or Buffalo?

Contrary to popular belief, there is a difference between Buffalos and Bison. Yea, You heard it right. They are not the same. 

While people use the words interchangeably, they actually refer to distinct species of the Bovidae family. Buffalos are old-world true “Buffalos” and are found in Asia and Africa. But Bison which actually migrated from Asia in the far past is found in North America and Europe. So, Alaska has Bison and not Buffalo.

How Many Bison Are There in Alaska?

Bison In Alaska

It is always difficult to precisely estimate the population of any animal including Bison. 

As per the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s surveys and research, there are about 1000 Bison in Alaska.

Historically, wood Bison roamed the vast areas of Alaska’s grasslands. But due to overhunting, diseases, and loss of habitat, wood Bison were extirpated from the state in the late 1800s. It was only in the early 2000s that a few woods Bison from Canada were reintroduced into the state specifically along the lower Yukon River.

Plain bison are new to the state and are typically found in four herds across the state totaling 900 bison. They are predominantly spread across Delta Junction where they were initially introduced in 1928, Farewell, Chitina River, and the Cooper River. 

What Animal Is Like a Bison in Alaska?

If you see a Bison in Alaska, it is pretty certain that they are a plain Bison. Due to their population distribution across the state, plain Bison have grown exceedingly well in the state. But occasionally, you may also spot a bigger similar looking Bison. These are the wood bison that have been recently introduced into the state, after a century since their extirpation. 

Wood bison are the largest terrestrial in the country and are bigger in size in comparison to the plain bison. Other than that, they both have similar features like stocky body built, horns and humps that they not only share with each other but also with cows.

How Did Bison Get to Alaska?

Wood bison have been inhabiting the state’s grasslands for thousands of years. But how did they make their way into the state?

About a million years ago, Bison, the true bison population migrated from Asia to Alaska. They traveled over the Bering land bridge to reach the state. As bison in general travel for a long distance especially with herds, it’s easy for these species to establish a stable population in new areas.

However, we do need to investigate the predator population as Bison are not only killed for human consumption. Even wildcats such as cougars which are found in Alaska hunt them. 

Can You Hunt Bison in Alaska?

Yes, Unlike in many states, it is perfectly legal to hunt Bison in Alaska, provided you follow the relevant rules and obtain the required permits.

Bison hunting in the state is managed and regulated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Wildlife. The agency releases the bag limit to control the harvest of the Bison. This is done to maintain a healthy population of Bison across the state. The hunt also takes place in specific locations at a specific period. 

As Bison hunting is quite popular in the state, it is quite difficult to get licenses and tags for the hunt. In fact, it is believed that about 15000 hunters compete for 100 permits which makes it less probable to get the permit.

Can You Farm Bison in Alaska?

Yes, you can farm Bison in Alaska. In most states of the country, farming Bison which is also termed Bison ranching is legal. In fact, ranching is one of those activities that has helped conserve these magnificent creatures among many others.

Bison are by nature resilient and are suitable to live in the Alaskan freezing weather due to their thick coat. However, other factors like the availability of land for grazing, fencing provisions, winter feeding, and veterinary care are required for the sustenance of these species. 

Ranchers should therefore look into these requirements before deciding to farm Bisons. Additionally, it is important to stay up to date on the relevant regulations and procedures to be followed to farm these herbivores.

Also Check Our guide On Bison In America

What Do Bison Eat in Alaska?

Bison in Alaska are similar to those in other states. Alaska is home to a wide area of grassland where Bison often graze upon the grasses, herbaceous plants, and sedges. In addition to grass, Bison’s diet predominantly consists of forbs, Bluegrass, fescue, forbs, and shrubs. This is their general diet in summer.

During winter when these creatures cannot find grasses in their habitat, they either move to other regions for food or are often fed by owners of the ranch.

Also Read Bison In Kansas


And that was everything you need to know about the Bison in Alaska. I hope this article was informative and your queries were answered.

Thank You For Reading!

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