Yukon hunt fails to trim growing bison population

Yukon hunters say a longer bison season could help keep numbers down, after fewer animals than expected were killed in this year’s hunt.
Bison crowd a road in Wood Buffalo National Park, the largest national park in the country. (Submitted by Carolyn Matthews)

Yukon hunters have again failed to curb growth in the territory's bison herd.

Wildlife managers were counting on hunting pressure to reduce the herd and keep its population at around 1,000.

"Our last count was around 1,200 animals before the hunt so we are higher than the target,” says biologist Tom Jung, who speaks for the bison management team. “We are hoping we have more animals harvested in the next few years so we can reach that target."

Wildlife officials report 136 bison were taken this winter, after about 900 permits were issued. 

Hunters suggest a longer bison hunting season would help.

The bison season currently doesn't open until November.

Yukon Fish and Game Association president Gord Zealand says a fall hunt would also reduce pressure on other wildlife.

“We've been advocating that they should open the hunt earlier, in the fall, the same as other ungulates you are out there hunting, like moose or elk,” Zealand says.

"Most of us that would take a bison. We're not going to be taking anything else if you were allowed to take a bison in the fall."

A new population census for the herd is planned for this summer.