The Mackenzie bison population was the first wood bison population re-established in an effort to conserve and recover wood bison.
This population occupies a wilderness area of approximately 20,000 km2 ranging from the Mackenzie River north to Behchoko and eastward to Yellowknife. They have also expanded their range west across Highway 3 to areas around Mills Lake and Mink Lake.
From the initial release north of Fort Providence in 1963, the population grew rapidly until it reached an estimated 2,400 animals in 1989. Numbers declined and fluctuated around 1,850-2,000 then declined. In the summer of 2012, a large anthrax outbreak killed at least 450 bison. The population was estimated at about 850 animals in 2016.
Harvesting of this population has been closed since the fall of 2012 in response to a major anthrax outbreak in the summer.