Bison bison

Range: U.S. and Canada

Habitat: grasslands

Conservation status: not threatened

Plains Bison

  • • Class: Mammalia, Order: Artiodactyla, Family: Bovidae (cattle family)
    • Commonly (incorrectly) called “American buffalo”
    • Long, shaggy winter dark brown winter coat falls off in patches in the spring
    • Lighter weight, light brown summer coat
    • Although bison seem to be calm animals, they can be violently aggressive.
    • Vision is poor, but their senses of smell and hearing are very sharp. In the wild this enables them to detect danger at far distances.
    • Formerly covered 1/3 of the continent and their numbers were about 60 million until Anglo humans killed off large numbers especially in order to starve out Native Americans. They exist now in several national parks, bison ranches, and zoos.
    • The diet consists of grasses and sedges. They eat mornings and evenings and rest during the day.
    • Lifespan: 25 years in captivity; 15 in the wild.
    • Bison were hunted almost to extinction in the 19th century and were reduced to a few hundred by the mid-1880s. They were hunted for their skins, with the rest of the animal left behind to decay on the ground.
    • The only continuously wild bison herd in the United States resides within Yellowstone National Park. Numbering between 3,000 and 3,500, this herd is descended from a remnant population of 23 individual mountain bison that survived the mass slaughter of the 1800s by hiding out in the Pelican Valley of Yellowstone Park.
    • Bison are now raised for meat and hides. Over 250,000 of the 350,000 remaining bison are being raised for human consumption. Bison meat is lower in fat and cholesterol than beef.
    • Recent genetic studies of privately owned herds of bison show that many of them include animals with genes from domestic cattle (Beefalo)

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