Yukon bison herd still too big

The bison-hunting season has closed for the season, and with 136 animals harvested, the herd is still estimated to be around 1,200 animals.

Yukon’s Aishihik bison herd is still going strong, and that’s actually a bit of a problem.

The bison-hunting season has closed for the season, and with 136 animals harvested, the herd is still estimated to be around 1,200 animals.

That’s about 200 higher than the territory’s bison management team would like it, said biologist Tom Jung.

The team would like to see about 150 animals taken each year, he said. With those numbers over the five-year life of the plan, they hope to get the herd down to its target of 1,000.

“If it was caribou, we’d say it was too many, but we’re trying to bring the herd down,” he said.

“It’s not quite where we’d like it to be, but that’s still a lot of meat in people’s freezers.”

The 1,000-animal target is designed to ensure the long-term viability of the herd and ensure there are enough animals for Yukoners to harvest sustainably. The management team is made up of representatives from Environment Yukon, the hunting community and affected First Nations. The herd’s target size is also meant to help reduce human-bison conflicts like collisions on the highway and to keep the herd contained within a defined boundary.

While Jung said the plan does call for more hunting generally, it’s actually more important that people start targeting more cows.

This year, there were 55 cows killed and 81 bulls. That’s about a 40-60 per cent split, Jung said. He wants to see it closer to 50-50.

It’s essentially the opposite of a conservation plan, where hunting is restricted and killing females is strongly discouraged.

Taking a cow will be more effective in terms of reducing the herd size than killing a bull, and they also taste better, Jung said.

“The bulls aren’t really the best eating. They tend to be older and tougher. Most people don’t have a need for that much hamburger meat,” he said.

In recent years the government has tried to get more hunters to go after bison. It reduced the price of a bison seal to $10 and got rid of the lottery for a permit. There were 900 such permits issued this year, but only a fraction of those turned into actual kills.

“We believe we’ve done a lot to liberalize the hunt, but we do still have some barriers,” Jung said.

That includes harsh winter weather, and the bison themselves. The season doesn’t open until November. Heavy snow, frigid temperatures and easier access to other game make for some serious disincentives.

Plus, since being reintroduced in the 1980s, the animals have learned to be wary of humans, and can be very difficult to find, Jung said. Making it more challenging, cows and calves are even wilier than the bulls, which accounts for some of the gender discrepancy.

There are about a half-dozen other so-called conservation herds in Canada, including many animals in the Northwest Territories, Jung said.

The bison were introduced in the early 1980s. One hundred and forty-one animals were brought to the Yukon, mostly from Elk Island in Alberta, Jung explained.

They were kept in a pen until 1988, when 170 were released into the wild, and have thrived in the area around Haines Junction.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Whether the dust jacket of this historical novel is the Canadian version (left) or the American (right), the readable content within is the same. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: New novel a gripping account of the gold rush

Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike is an ‘enjoyable and readable’ account of history

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your furnace and your truck need to go

Perhaps the biggest commitment in the NDP deal with the Liberals was boosting the Yukon’s climate target

Awaken Festival organizers Meredith Pritchard, Colin Wolf, Martin Nishikawa inside the Old Firehall in Whitehorse on May 11. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Performing arts fest plans to awaken artistic talent in Whitehorse and the rural North

‘A value of ours is to make theatre as accessible as possible.’

April Mikkelsen tosses a disc during a ladies only disc golf tournament at Solstice DiscGolfPark on May 8. John Tonin/Yukon News
Yukon sees its first-ever women’s disc golf tournament

The Professional Disc Golf Assocation had a global women’s event last weekend. In the Yukon, a women’s only tournament was held for the first time ever.

Dave Blottner, executive director at the Whitehorse Food Bank, said the food bank upped its services because of the pandemic. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Food Bank sees Yukoners’ generosity firsthand

“Businesses didn’t know if they could stay open but they were calling us to make sure we were able to stay open.”

A prescribed burn is seen from the lookout at Range Road and Whistle Bend Way in Whitehorse May 12. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Editorial: Are you ready for a forest fire?

Citizens for a Firesmart Whitehorse have listed some steps for Yukoners to boost safety and awareness

Caribou pass through the Dempster Highway area in their annual migration. A recent decision by the privacy commissioner has recommended the release of some caribou collar re-location data. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News)
Privacy commissioner recommends release of caribou location data

Department of Environment says consultation with its partners needed before it will consider release

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Family pleased youth will be able to get Pfizer vaccine

Angela Drainville, mother of two, is anxious for a rollout plan to come forward

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

Most Read