6 Amazing Facts You Never Knew About Bison

from Wildlife Promise

photo credit: Beth Pratt/NWF

The bison, shaggy behemoth of the Great Plains, despite weighing as much as a ton, can race up to 40 mph, jump up to 6 feet vertically and can quickly pivot to combat predators. Unfortunately this mighty beast is not faster than a speeding bullet.

Though the bison’s ancestors roamed the continent with saber-toothed tigers and woolly mammoths, he could not protect himself from expansion and was nearly wiped out in the late 1800s as the nation’s population moved West.

Millions of bison were slaughtered for sport, for their hides, to clear the plains for settlers and their livestock and to control the Plains tribes. Native Americans used the bison for food and clothing, shelter, tools and ceremonial implements – nearly everything to survive physically and spiritually.

Before their near extermination, an estimated 30 million to 60 million bison ranged from Canada to northern Mexico and from the Plains to Eastern forests. By about 1890, roughly 1,000 remained, including two dozen in Yellowstone National Park.

Now the tribes at Fort Peck and Fort Belknap are preparing for the arrival of 65 Yellowstone bison.

The American buffalo, also known as bison, has always held great meaning for American Indian people…buffalo represent their spirit and remind them of how their lives were once lived, free and in harmony with nature.  -the InterTribal Buffalo Council

 

Bison and calf by Dick Forehand

credit: D. Forehand of Montana

6 Facts about Bison:

1) Bison are North America’s largest land animals. Mature bulls weigh up to 2,000 pounds and mature cows as much as 1,000 pounds.

2) A bison stands 6 – 6.5 feet tall and 10 – 12.5 feet long.

3) A bison’s hump is composed of muscle, supported by long vertebrae. It allows the animal to use its head to plow through snow.

4) Most of the 500,000 or so bison nationwide are raised as livestock on ranches. About 30,000 are managed for conservation in private and public herds.

5) Fossils and accounts from early travelers show that Yellowstone National Park is the only place in the U.S. where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times.

6) The Yellowstone herd is one of the few that remains genetically free of cattle genes.

Bison are finally making a comeback, and you can help. Symbolically adopt your own bison!