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3 Yukon bison died after slipping down icy hill, officials say

Conservation officers say three bison discovered dead last month slipped on thick ice, which sent them tumbling down a hillside.

The bison were found dead early last month, conservation officers say unusual weather led to thick ice layer

One of three bison found at the bottom of an icy hill earlier last month. (Yukon Conservation Officer Services)

Conservation officers believe they have determined what caused the deaths of three bison found near Haines Junction early last month.

Their bodies were discovered southwest of Aishihik Lake on Feb. 9 by contractors working in the area. 

There was no sign of human interference.

"From the tracks in the snow, it appeared that a herd of bison had been on the top side of a ridge and started working their way down the hill and began sliding," conservation officer T.J. Grantham told Leonard Linklater, host of Midday Café on CBC Radio.

Ice thicker than normal 

It appears three of the bison slipped over a 4.5 metre embankment, before tumbling another 300 metres down the hill.

Officers say rain and freezing temperatures caused about 2.5 centimetres of ice build-up in the area. 

"We had that unusual weather pattern throughout the winter, and specifically up here in Haines Junction," said Grantham. "There's a thick layer of ice on those hillsides making things extremely slippery."

He said the ice is making things difficult for other animals as well.

"I think all the animals that are depending on those slopes are going to be having a tough time this winter —sheep, bison, deer — anything that's trying to get through that thick layer of ice is going to be having a difficult winter for sure."

Grantham said officers left the dead bison behind, which should help a few other animals find something to eat.

With files from Leonard Linklater

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