It's a regal beast that roams the Northland – still king of its domain.
Once, its kin covered the prairies. Now, it endures only here.
And when you witness it – living, breathing, snorting, strolling, thriving, as in ancient times – you will be wilder too.
Here's 9 reasons why wild bison are a wonder of the Northwest Territories:
The Northwest Territories is home to vast majority of the world’s wood bison. Before the 20th century, Canada’s wood bison herds numbered in the tens of thousands, roaming across the boreal forest from the Yukon to northern Saskatchewan. Now, the Northwest Territories is their key refuge, and by far the easiest place to witness them.
A larger, darker, more lithe northern cousin of plains bison, wood bison are the biggest land animals in North America. Bulls can be six feet high at the shoulder, thirteen feet long, and tip the scales at more than one tonne. Females are much smaller, weighing up to 1,200 pounds.
Wood bison are dark brown to nearly black, with a huge head, a pronounced muscular hump, and a shaggy mane of soft hair on their shoulders and forelegs. Males' horns are short, dark and curve inward; females' are straighter. Both sexes moult twice per year, in spring and fall.
It’s common to see newborn red calves among the herd. Their mothers, having been impregnated during the fall rut, gestate for up to 300 days before giving birth in late spring. They usually bear two calves every three years. Wolves are the baby bisons’ main predator. In rare instances, travellers have witnessed wolf packs stalking bison calves.
Another 700 wood bison inhabit the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary near Fort Providence. They are frequently seen browsing along Highway 3, or even lounging in the middle of the road. Indeed, travellers are warned to drive with caution, as crashes involving bison are not uncommon.
Another 400 bison dwell among the rolling aspen-forests in the vicinity of Fort Liard; they are often spotted along the Liard Trail.
Bison are generally unafraid of people, and sometimes wander freely right in town. In the communities of Fort Providence and Fort Liard they often stroll the streets and browse in gardens. When they become too much of a nuisance, local “bison wranglers” on all-terrain vehicles shoo the animals out of town.
Learn more about the wood bison and other wild creatures of the spectacular Northwest Territories by checking out our wildlife- and nature-viewing tours and attractions.