Banff (September 27, 2016). Celebrating its tenth year since re-establishing in 2006, the American Bison Society (ABS) issued a “report card” highlighting major milestones reached during the renewed tenure of ABS. The report card was released at the ABS Meeting and Workshop – taking place for the first time in Canada, on September 26-29 in Banff National Park.


“When you look at the complete ABS report card, it is a remarkable testament to what can be achieved when different stakeholders, including conservationists, tribes and First Nations, government agencies, political leaders, and the public, across Mexico, the U.S and Canada come together to work towards a common objective,” said Keith Aune, Bison Program Director for WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), Chair of the IUCN Bison Specialist Group, and ABS Spokesperson.

“Ten years ago, the idea of achieving even a small number of the accomplishments listed in the report card would have seemed impossible to many,” said John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President for Public Affairs.   “To have put together such a long list of success is nothing short of amazing. WCS could not be prouder of continuing legacy of the American Bison Society.”

In the past 10 years, ABS and WCS have made remarkable strides in bison conservation, including:

  • Leading and succeeding in an effort to bring about passage of the National Bison Legacy Act, which officially adopted bison as the National Mammal of the United States on May 9, 2016.
  • Securing National Bison Day on the first Saturday of each November to commemorate the ecological, cultural and economic contributions of bison to the United States.
  • Reintroducing the historic “Pablo-Allard” herd to their ancestral home on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana. This translocation of 88 animals from Alberta to Montana was done in partnership with the Blackfeet Nation, Elk Island National Park and the Oakland Zoo, and had tremendous ecological, economic and cultural impacts for the Blackfeet Nation, along with achieving important conservation gains.
  • Fostering the Iinii Initiative - Hosting tribal dialogues to create a collective conservation vision, engage tribal elders, and launch strategic restoration actions.
  •  Working with Colorado State University and WCS’s Bronx Zoo to produce the first bison born through embryo transfer in 2012. This innovation illustrates how we can ensure that reputable genetics can be incorporated into other herds or used to create new herds.

“The Bronx Zoo played an important historical role in the recovery of the American bison. By establishing a pure bison herd the zoo will be, in essence, returning to its roots. The offspring of these bison will be used in future restoration programs and to establish herds in other AZA-accredited zoos,” said Dr. Pat Thomas , WCS General Curator and Associate Director of the Bronx Zoo, who has co-authored one of the presentations at the conference.


The conference this week marks the fifth time since reforming that ABS will convene a working group of scientists, stakeholders and bison enthusiasts to address issues related to bison restoration, genetics, and the social/cultural dimensions of ecological restoration. Highlights of the workshop will include, the launch of the report card, updates on the status of bison across North America and in Europe, and the exchange of ideas with Canadian First Nations and Native American tribes about the cultural and social importance of the buffalo.


To mark the event, WCS and ABS are debuting the Bison Story Map, a collaborative effort featuring interactive maps, videos and images celebrating bison and their history in North America. Check out


The book Last of the Buffalo: Return to the Wild, will also be launched at the meeting. “The book focuses on the Pablo Allard buffalo herd and its seminal role in bison conservation in North America, from rescuing the species from extinction to the planned ecological reintroduction of bison to Banff National Park in 2017, “said lead author and editor, Harvey Locke.


About the American Bison and ABS
Before being nearly driven to extinction by westward expansion, between 30 and 50 million bison roamed across most of North America. By the early 1900s, however, their numbers had been cut to less than a thousand. In 1905, the Bronx Zoo’s first director William Hornaday, President Theodore Roosevelt, and others launched the American Bison Society, a national campaign to create wild bison reserves. This effort involved captive propagation of bison seed stock at WCS’s Bronx Zoo in New York City. In 1907, ABS shipped 15 animals by train from the Zoo to Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Shipments to other locations followed and by 1935, nine conservation herds had been established. This early campaign to spare the last bison evolved into the first major wildlife conservation success in world history.

Today, bison exist in all 50 U.S. states in public and private herds, providing recreational opportunities for wildlife viewers in zoos, refuges and parks, and sustaining the multimillion dollar bison ranching and production business. Many Native American tribes and First Nations continue to revere bison as a cultural cornerstone and spiritual symbol of their heritage, and maintain private bison herds on their lands. In 2005, WCS spearheaded an American Bison Society initiative to help build the social and scientific foundations for the ecological restoration of bison.

See the new video Wild Bison: The Long Trail Back.

Treaty Celebration

The ABS meeting will be immediately followed by a celebration of the second anniversary of the Buffalo treaty: a treaty of cooperation, renewal and restoration among 15 tribes in Montana and First Nations in Alberta to establish intertribal alliances for collaboration in the restoration of American bison on Tribal/First Nations Reserves or co-managed lands within the U.S. and Canada. Up to an additional 10 tribes are expected to sign the treaty.


“We’re tremendously excited to host the ABS Meeting and Workshop in Canada for the first time,” said Dr. Justina Ray, President and Senior Scientist of WCS Canada. “Bison hold an important place in the ecological, economic and cultural systems of North America, and their conservation is hugely important.”