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The following newspaper article describes the arrival of the first elk and bison in the Yukon Territory, in the summer of 1951.

Dawson Weekly News


'Dawson Weekly News' newspaper - Dawson City, Yukon Territory, 1951

    Mr. Them Kjar, director of game and publicity of the Yukon Territory, arrived in Dawson September 28th, on a business trip.

    Mr. Kjar, reporting on late developments of his department, was quite enthusiastic over the success of that body in being able to state that the propagation of Elk and also of buffalo was now a fact in the Yukon.

    After a trip of approximately sixteen hundred miles from Elk Island Park (40 miles east of Edmonton, Alberta) which began at that point and ended at the Braeburn Lake Coral on the old Dawson trail, John Carmichael and Ken Prayor of Whitehorse delivered their charges after a trip that lasted from September 6th to the 11th.

    The nineteen elk were liberated at Braeburn Lake. They had been carefully inspected to make certain that they would be in shape to survive the long winter. These animals looked a little odd at the time of their release as it had been necessary to saw off their horns before transporting them to this point to prevent them from injury in what was an is known the longest motor trip yet yet undertaken for the purpose of transporting game animals.

    The elk are now roaming the woods in the Yukon and may be the forerunners of many more. These are the first elk that were ever in the Yukon. Another fact as regards these animals is that two calves are born each year.

    In regard to buffalo, according to Mr. Kjar, there are two bull buffalo and and four cows at large in the Yukon and these had been released in the vicinity of Braeburn Lake on the 21st of September of this year. These buffalo were a gift from the Alaska Wild Life Commission and came from the Big Delta Park in Alaska. A note here of interest is that in 1928 the Alaska Wild Life Commission and the Alaska Sportsman were the instigators in the move that resulted in the importation of 28 Buffalo to Big Delta Reserve. The 28 animals had grown to a herd of four hundred in 1950. Last year, because of the shortage of pasture due to a new airport and the passing through of a highway, it was decided that licenses would be granted to 25 persons at $50.00 a piece to hunt and kill one bull buffalo each. Of the 800 applications only 25 were selected in a form of a draw, the lucky hunters were taken out by Alaska Game Wardens who pointed out the big animals that was theirs and let them "get it". The $50.00 wasn't a great deal of money when a person considers that a grown Buffalo dresses at 1500 pounds.

    Mr. Kjar, director and Mr. G. Cameron, Assistant Director of the department in the Yukon both ask that "ALL persons in the Yukon that see either Buffalo or Elk report to the Game Department in Whitehorse as to the TIME, DATE and LOCATION of these animals when seen; this is very important." These animals are being propagated in the Yukon to eventually supply game that is now fast nearing extinction in these parts, namely moose and caribou.

    In a note of caution to all hunters, it is advised to LOOK before YOU SHOOT.

    In respect to elk, they will appear through the bush as very light yellow in color and all of them having a white rump. Though normally having big antlers similar to deer those seen this year will have them sawn off. In respect to the Buffalo; unless the hunter sees the head they may easily bs mistaken for a moose as the coloring is much the same.

    While it is sincerely hoped that all persons that are tempted to shoot these animals will remember that they are being placed here for the eventual pleasure and use of all Yukoners, it is also pointed out that there are severe penalties for anyone convicted os shooting these big game specimens.

    The coming winter will be the decisive time in determining whether or not further stocking of Yukon areas will be made of these animals.

Note: The newspaper article above has been reproduced exactly as originally printed, with no changes made to spelling, capitalizations or grammar.

    It took much longer than had been expected when the elk and bison were imported in in 1951, but both species have done well, particularly the bison. The 2014 population of elk (Cervus canadensis) is about 300, and there are about 1,200 Wood bison (Bison bison athabascae).

    Another 30 elk were imported in 1954, and with the population stagnant, a further 119 animals between 1989 and 1994. The 1951 importation of bison failed, and they all seem to have died by 1973. Another 170 bison were released between 1988 and 1992 in the Nisling River valley, 160 km west of Whitehorse, however, and that herd (the Aishihik herd) has grown to about 1,200. The bison south of Watson Lake live primarily in British Columbia so are not counted as Yukon animals.

    Extremely limited hunting of elk is currently permitted - a total of 5 animals can be killed in 2014. Bison of the Aishihik herd have become very wary of humans and hunting them has become much more difficult, but a total of some 700 animals have been killed since hunting began in 1998.

    Elk are most commonly seen along the North Klondike Highway in the Braeburn area where they were originally released, and along the Alaska Highway near Mendenhall. Bison sightings are almost guaranteed between Watson Lake and Liard Hot Springs; they used to be commonly seen along the Alaska Highway in the Aishihik Road area, but since hunting began they are seldom seen.

Elk near Mendenhall

Bison near Liard Hot Springs