Bison, Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, WCS Canada
Bison, Tallgrass Prairie Preserve © WCS Canada


Bison in Canada include both the Plains Bison of the prairies and its larger cousin the Wood Bison, which lives in the boreal forest.

Why Bison matter

Both subspecies of bison were once on the edge of extinction. Efforts by the Wildlife Conservation Society in the US and the government of Canada in the early 1900s were critical for saving this species.

Thanks to these and other bison reintroductions, there are now about 2,200 Plains Bison and about 11,000 Wood Bison roaming wild in Canada. However, bison are still absent from much of their former range and remain vulnerable to habitat loss, disease and with domesticated bison that have cattle genes. Only a few herds are truly wild.

Bison are the portal through which stronger Indigenous relationships are forged – a vital element of the pathway towards Reconciliation.

Status of Bison

Our solutions

Conservation partnerships

Wildlife Conservation Society founded the Amercian Bison Society in 1905 to help recover bison populations. In 2005, WCS relaunched the American Bison Society (ABS) (which had gone dormant in 1935) to reinvigorate efforts to recover bison, shifting the focus from staving off extinction to achieving ecological restoration of the Prairies.

ABS helped to bring together more than a dozen First Nations to sign the Buffalo Treaty in 2014, which recognizes the critical cultural role bison play for Indigenous people and their commitment to helping to restore bison to their traditional lands. Several additional First Nations in Canada and the U.S. have signed since and the annual treaty celebration is an important opportunity for First Nations Chiefs and Councillors to come together to discuss bison conservation.

In 2016, WCS co-hosted a week-long ABS conference and Buffalo Treaty 2nd year anniversary celebration in Banff. This unique conference was attended by over 200 bison enthusiasts to discuss the social and cultural dimensions of bison restoration.

Habitat mapping

WCS Canada is mapping habitat for both Plains Bison and Wood Bison through a global partnership. We’re identifying conservation landscapes: places that still have large and connected habitats where bison could possibly be reintroduced to the wild.

We will share bison conservation landscape mapping with governments and First Nations to identify and support continued efforts to bring wild bison back to their natural habitat.


Stories and op-eds

Bison Day: Q&A with WCS Canada’s new Director of National Conservation

Bison Day: Q&A with WCS Canada’s new Director of National Conservation

National Bison Day was introduced to celebrate the American Bison.
Daniel Kraus