Reasons For The Hunt

Government first initiated a limited hunting season for the Hay-Zama bison herd in 2008, when the population was nearing 700 animals. This unique hunt, designated for an endangered species and Alberta’s only Wood Bison Recovery Herd, is designed to contain the herd to the Hay-Zama area, and to maintain a herd size of 400 to 600 animals.

The lower goal of 400 bison is designed to ensure that there are enough healthy and genetically diverse adults for breeding. The upper goal of 600 ensures that bison are not forced out of the Hay-Zama range by overpopulation, which would put them in contact with the bison to the east in Wood Buffalo National Park. There is a history of diseases – including tuberculosis and bovine brucellosis – among the Wood Buffalo herd; to date, testing of the Hay-Zama herd has not found evidence of either of these diseases. We’ll be testing again in 2016-17.

The hunt has the additional benefit of addressing public safety concerns in the area, particularly in the communities of Chateh and Zama where vehicle collisions with bison have occurred. Controlling the herd size helps minimize the risk of these encounters.

A population survey conducted in February found 501 bison in the Hay-Zama herd, which is sufficient to continue the hunt. The season was suspended in 2013/14 as a result of severe winter weather, which caused unusually high calf and adult bison mortality.

The Rules For This Year’s Hunt

All hunters harvesting bison in the Hay-Zama area require a Resident Bison Special Licence.

Aboriginal hunters:

  • All First Nations residents of Alberta, as well as Métis hunters from Fort Vermilion and Paddle Prairie who quality under Alberta’s Métis Harvesting Policy, are eligible to obtain a limited number of free bison licences. These will be available from the High Level and Fort Vermilion Fish and Wildlife offices starting on August 12, 2014. A total of 70 Aboriginal licences will be issued.
  • Aboriginal hunters will be able to hunt bison in the Hay-Zama area from September 1 2014 – March 31 2015.
  • There is extremely high demand for these licences - in past years, all licences were issued within two days. Given this high demand, Aboriginal hunters are urged to voluntarily limit bison licences to one per family.

Successful draw hunters:

  • Hunters who are successful in the annual bison hunting licence draw will be able to hunt bison from December 1 2014 to February 28 2015.
  • A total of 35 non-Aboriginal licences have been made available, resulting in a projected harvest of 65 to 70 bison in total.

Rules and guidelines for all hunters:

  • All successful bison hunters must register their kills at a Fish and Wildlife office within five business days.
  • All hunters are being encouraged to harvest male bison (bulls).
  • Aboriginal hunters are encouraged to apply for only one special licence per family, as a limited number are available.

Questions?

To speak to a Fish and Wildlife officer about the hunt, contact these offices:

  • High Level: 780-926-2238
  • Fort Vermilion: 780-927-4488
  • Peace River: 780-624-6405

Updated: Aug 26, 2014