Spring is always baby season at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, but this year the center just off the Seward Highway near Portage is awash in youngsters, particularly wood bison.
Mike Miller, executive director of the center near Portage about a hour's drive from Anchorage, estimates 30 wood bison calves were born this spring. Exactly how many, he’s not certain.
“They’re hard to count, always on the move,” he said. “It’s tough, you can’t really count them. They’re laying down and things like that.”
Big bison, which can weigh up to 2,000 pounds, are easier to track. “We had 102 adult animals before they started to calf,” Miller said.
All together, the bison eat 1,700 pounds of feed daily. Carlile Transportation has donated the trucking to get high-moisture hay and oats from a Point Mackenzie farmer to the center.
“When we brought the animals in here, they had good pasture,” Miller said. “But they ate all the willows, and they pound the area they’re in. You can never keep a perennial grass under them. They’re heavy on it and are destroying it.”
To help, the center is erecting three 23-foot-tall grain bins that will hold oats from Delta to help feed the bison. It’s also expanding, aiming to use 150 acres under a lease from the U.S. Forest Service near the Placer River for the bison. That will nearly double the center’s 200 available acres.
Another donor is Wal-Mart, which donated about 10 tons of meat to help feed the center’s bears and lynx.
In addition to the bison calves, there are also moose, musk ox and elk calves. One of the moose calves was injured by dogs in Talkeetna before arriving at the center.