Recently the Kenai Peninsula 4-H District was fortunate to receive an invitation to participate in the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center’s (AWCC) Wood Bison Restoration Project pre-release roundup.
According to AWCC Director Mike Miller, the North American Wood Bison has been extinct in Alaska for more than 100 years and is currently listed as an endangered species throughout the rest of the United States. For the past 12 years AWCC and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game have been working to reintroduce this majestic animal back into its natural habitat in Alaska. In the coming year at least 100 animals are scheduled to be released near the remote Western-Alaska community of Shagaluk.
4-H volunteers started their day on Dec. 16 with a 6 a.m. drive to AWCC’s Portage-based facility, and then spent 8 hours outside working with nearly 30 other volunteers. 4-H participants served in a variety of roles including squeeze-gate operation, herding, and as veterinary assistants. In order to minimize unnecessary and potentially unhealthy stress to the bison, volunteers were asked to stay out of sight as much as possible and not to make any noise above a whisper for the entire workday. At the conclusion of the roundup all 4-H participants agreed the experience was both fun and educational. For Japanese 4-H Exchange and Nikiski High School student, Kazuya Okamoto this roundup may have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Following last week’s successful collaboration AWCC has proposed expanding partnership with 4-H and is now discussing possible development of a formal 4-H residential educational camp and internship program sometime within the next year or two. For those interested in working with Reindeer, Musk Ox and a variety of other Alaska critters stay tuned for more information as the Kenai Peninsula District 4-H Program makes it available.
Other agencies and organizations partnering in last week’s round-up activity included the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Division of Environmental Health Office of the State Veterinarian, Anchorage Cabela’s store, Challenge Alaska, and Z Architects.