The American bison, Bison bison, is a large bovid that has been domesticated since its demise as a wide-ranging apex herbivore in North America and Canada. Feral populations of the species do not exist.
There are two sub-species of American bison, Bison bison bison (American plains bison) and Bison bison athabascae (Wood bison). They have a fragmented distribution across northern America and are listed as a “near threatened” species under the IUCN Red List.
This risk assessment considers only the American bison, and the term ‘bison’ refers to this species, unless otherwise specified.
As a key component of risk assessment for import into Tasmania, conventional climate modelling was applied to compare the state’s environment with the species’ natural range.
CLIMATCH revealed “very low” potential for suitable habitat across the entire state. The assessment concluded that bison would persist/ acclimatise well in areas overlapping with Forester Kangaroo.
CLIMATCH modelling does not take into consideration land-use changes that may have made areas more suited for bison in Tasmania.
American bison are classified as “suitable for live import (into Australia) with an import permit” (EPBC Act 1999). Currently, domesticated bison occur in all Australian states, where they are used for meat, hide and dairy production, as well as exhibition.
The risk assessment determined the American bison, Bison bison as highly dangerous to humans, having a moderate establishment risk and with a low consequence of establishment. It was therefore proposed the species be assigned to a serious threat category.
The Department will consider permitting the importation of animals assessed as ‘serious risk’ into the State, as long as appropriate mitigation measures can be identified and applied.
Mitigation options to reduce the risk associated with importing American bison include:
- Limiting importation to facilities that can demonstrate the ability to be able to hold the species in a way that meets the stringent keeping standards that apply in Tasmania.
- Requiring any facility wishing to hold bison to submit an American bison species management plan (including enclosure details) prior to import.
- Requiring any facility wishing to hold bison to be able to demonstrate they have staff proficient in the management and husbandry of this species.