Elk calves born at Alaska
Wildlife Conservation Center
By Ethan Tyler and Mike Miller
Special to the Turnagain Times
The magic of spring and summer is in full swing at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center this year. Not only has the center welcomed new musk oxen calves, orphaned moose and fox, and the births of several wood bison, but most recently, the center has played host to the births of three elk calves.
The most recent of the elk calves was well timed from the perspective of several lucky onlookers, as it was born at one of the center’s busiest hours, allowing a large number of AWCC guests the opportunity to view a live birth that few get to see. The calf and mother are both doing well, and adjusting to life at the center.
Newly born elk calves roam the grounds of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage.
This calf joins the two calves born on June 8 at the center, which, in addition to several of the four-year-old elk at the center have a higher purpose than allowing tourists a glimpse into living in the wild. These animals will be shipped to Akutan Island, about 765 air miles southwest of Anchorage this fall as part of a wild release program, and will be the founding stock of this island’s herd.
“AWCC has been working with the Akutan Native Corporation to get this program off the ground,” said Mike Miller, Executive Director at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. “The corporation will own and manage the elk and where it’s sad to see them go, it is always exciting to be a part of a project like this with so many tangible benefits. In the meantime, be sure to look for these animals this summer at the Wildlife Center in Portage.”
Wood Bison project expands with 36 acres of new pastures
Photos Courtesy of Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
This Canadian born five-year-old wood bison is a valuable breed bull.
Thirty acres of Chugach National Forest are being cleared to provide additional pasture for the wood bison at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. A Feacon machine is removing the brush and grinding the roots as it proceeds. A root rake attached to the AWCC D-3 dozer is collecting and separating excess debris from the topsoil. Next step, the AWCC loader/backhoe buries the discarded woody material.
The final step is to disc, level and seed (Bluegrass 75 percent and Fescue 25 percent) using the new JD Tractor made possible by the Rasmuson Foundation, SCI Alaska Chapter, John Deere International, Alyeska Resort, Pope & Young Club and the Sean Mclaughlin Family.
The new pasture will be in production this fall and will be utilized year after year as long as the wood bison restoration project needs it.
Each spring AWCC replants 28 acres of annual rye in the sacrifice enclosures that are destroy by the bison in winter. The compacted soil is disced mixing seven months of manure with the soil. Forty-five acres is fertilized in additional acreage that is in good perennial pasture.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks School Of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences donated nine tons of barley feed. Carlile Transportation again graciously donated the transportation, delivering the barley from Palmer to our front door.
Enstar Natural Gas Co. donated four pieces of 25-foot two-foot diameter steel pipe. The pipes are cut in half making eight 25 foot bulk feeders for the bison.
The female bison are still separated from the bulls. They are being fed 400 pounds of barley daily in preparation for the rut. Increasing their nutritional intake one month prior to the rut will deliver more calves next spring. Only 11 calves were born this spring. The goal is a minimum of 30 calves next spring.
All the bison are in excellent health and are gaining weight on lush green pastures.
The first signs of the rut are evident as the bulls are begging to spar and are becoming increasingly active. Canadian born Elk Island 5 year old bull (#9881) is exceptional. He visually possesses strong distinct wood bison qualities.
The male bison’s attitude also makes him a valuable breed bull. When rotating pastures, he will hold his ground and challenge the four-wheeler. This was the trouble maker in the first group handled last February.
The goal is to breed for aggressiveness and attitude, qualities that will be beneficial in the wild in the wood bison reintroduction project.