The Zama area is home to the Hay-Zama Wild Bison Herd, which is a disease-free protected Wood Bison Herd. They are thriving in this North-West corner and can been seen in and around the communities of Zama, Chateh and even as south as Rainbow Lake on occasion. Caution must be taken while driving in the area as our Bison do not move for oncoming vehicles, are hard to see in at night, and where there is one there are normally many. Our Bison, commonly called Buffalo, have become part of the landscape and are considered locals. One must be considerate and give them space, even though they they love to get their picture taken, they are still wild and unpredictable.
The Hay-Zama wood bison reintroduction program started in 1983 as a joint effort among the Canadian Wildlife Service, Dene Tha’ First Nation and Alberta Environment and Parks to re-establish a sustainable population of wood bison in northwestern Alberta. A herd of 29 animals from Elk Island National Park was moved to a paddock in the Chateh area. Originally the herd was supposed to be released in 1988, but was postponed due to the concern around disease transference from the Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP) Population. In 1993 the Bison escaped the paddock and in 1994 a Hay Zama “Bison Protection Area” was created to help manage the herd and protect it from the diseased Bison of WBNP. Wood Bison are considered Endangered under Alberta’s Wildlife Act and Regulation. Alberta has conducted annual surveys since the original release of 42 bison. By 2008, based on a minimum count, the population had expanded to 652 bison. Surveys are extensive, with over 3,500 kilometres flown during a survey season. Locals and travellers also assist Wood bison with location reports and health issues.
As a management tool, a winter tagged hunt, with recreational and indigenous tags, is sometimes allowed. At all other times, for anyone, it is illegal to hunt, harm, or traffic in the bison within this area. The Government of Alberta, in conjunction with the locals, carefully monitor and control the free-roaming bison herds found in and around Wood Buffalo National Park as to protect the Hay-Zama herd from contracting Tuberculosis and Brucellosis.
Hay-Zama Wildland Park
The Hay-Zama Wildland Park is located just to the South of Zama City, along the road to Chateh, Alberta.