WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to reclassify the wood bison, a Canadian relative of the American plains bison, from "endangered" to "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act.
The agency's conclusion at the end of a 12-month review is that the species has made sufficient progress under the Canadian National Wood Bison Recovery Plan to warrant the change in status.
The plan called for the creation of at least four disease free herds of 400 individuals as an indication that the species was moving toward sustainability.
By 2000, there were seven disease free herds totaling over 4,400 individuals, up from the low of just one herd with 300 individuals in 1978.
Both the wood bison and plains bison were hunted nearly to extinction by the end of the 19th century, and recovery efforts for both have been hampered by curtailment of their historic range, disease and the intermingling of genetic stock with domesticated cattle.
The male wood bison is the largest terrestrial animal in North America, weighing over 2,000 pounds.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.