Name: the American bison (Bison bison) – also known as the bison, American buffalo, or buffalo – is a species of bison that once roamed across North America in vast herds.
Appearance: bison have long, shaggy brown coats. They are easily recognised by their massive heads that are crowned with short, curved horns.
Size: American bison can grow up to 3.5 metres long, stand 1.9 metres tall, and weigh over a tonne. The heaviest ever recorded reached a massive 1.3 tonnes in weight!
Diet: they are herbivores, grazing on the grasses of the North American prairies. Their typical days include two hours of grazing, resting, and cud-chewing, before moving on to a new location to graze again.
Did you know: bison hunting was an important tradition of the indigenous peoples of the Great Plains. For many tribes, bison were an integral part of life and were even known as the first people. Every part of the animal was used for food, clothing, or tools. During colonisation, the US government encouraged bison hunting on an unprecedented scale – in part to sabotage the resources of indigenous tribes. During this period they were killed in massive numbers – almost leading to their extinction by 1890. As well as the catastrophic environmental impact, this act also had huge social impacts on indigenous tribes. Today, cooperation between the government, conservationists, and local tribes means that bison numbers are starting to slowly recover.
Location: the ‘great bison belt’ once ran from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico, and as far east as New York. With a population of more than 60 million in the late 18th century, there were only 541 animals by 1889. Today there are around 31,000 wild bison restricted to a few national parks and reserves.
Where to see American Bison
According to reports submitted to WildSide, you can see American bison in the following places:
Photo credit: David Mark under a Creative Commons licence from Pixabay