Commonly called the buffalo, the animal of the romantic old west that once populated the great plains, is actually a bison, which is not the same thing as a buffalo. Still a symbol of the wild west, the American bison is the heaviest land mammal in North America. Buffalo Articles IndexBison Description: American Bison VariationGeorge ShawBuy this American Bison fine art printAlso called the American buffalo, the bison has a large head with relatively small, curving horns. It has a shaggy coat of brown hair on its shoulders and legs, while its body has shorter, finer hair. Bison have very poor eyesight, but a keen sense of smell.BISON SIZE: American Bison or Buffalo (Male)John James AudubonBuy this American Bison Art PrintBison are 5 to 6½ feet long and weigh 900 to 2,200 pounds. Males are larger than females on average. BISON POPULATION: Historically, bison numbered an estimated TWENTY MILLION to SIXTY MILLION as recently as the early 1800s. In less than a century (most of the killing occured during a twenty year period), this number was reduced to FOUR documented wild bison. Today, approximately 250,000 bison remain in the United States. Of those, only 16,000 roam in the wild. Yellowstone National Park has the only population of free-roaming bison. BISON LIFESPAN:Bison typically live between 12 to 15 years, but some bison have been known to live as long as 25 years. BISON RANGE: American Bison (AP)Edward AldrichBuy This American Bison Fine Art PrintIn the wild, bison are found in parts of Canada and the western United States inside Yellowstone National Park. BISON HABITAT: The Great Plains, prairies, and forests. BISON DIET:Bison eat grasses and sedges, moving continuously as they eat so that they rarely overgraze an area. BISON BEHAVIOR: Bison today live in herds of 20 to 50 animals. The females, or cows, lead family groups. Bulls (males) remain either solitary or in small groups for most of the year. Bison travel as a group and roam great distances in the wild. They can reach speeds of up to 30 mph. BISON BREEDING HABITS:Females produce one calf after a gestation period of nine and a half months. Calves are born in late April to mid-May. The cow protects the young. The offspring may remain with the mother for as long as three years after birth. THREATS TO BISON: Mother Buffalo (Canvas)Sheri Greves-NeilsonBuy this Mother Buffalo Fine Art CanvasHumans and loss of habitat are the biggest threats to the bison. Shooting bison for their hides was a favorite frontier sport. Some people made a career of this occupation. During the Indian Wars, the US government paid a bounty on buffalo, trying to remove the American Indians' primary food source to force them into surrender or facing starvation. They were hugely successful in this objective. This is the only time in recorded history that an entire species was driven to the brink of extinction due to war policy. BuffaloGreg BeechamBuy This Buffalo Art PrintThat bounty, the demand for buffalo robes in the East, and sport hunters practically eliminated the bison by 1890. In 1893, when the first efforts were made to protect the animals, only four bison were known to exist. Today, the bison of Yellowstone National Park face the threat of slaughter when they exit the park and enter the state of Montana. The Montana Department of Agriculture fears the contamination of cattle by bison carrying the disease brucellosis, although there are no known cases of brucellosis passed by bison in the wild to domestic cattle. Bison / Buffalo Articles:
It was the 8th annual Children's Bison Roundup on Wednesday at Antelope Island State Park.
The famous and often controversial Yellowstone bison herds are changing the ecosystem around them as they move steadily to the west, according to Mary Meagher, a retired National Park Service biologist who has studied the bison for 40 years.