The Bewildering Bison

Bison bison

about Bison

Although bison are commonly referred to as “buffalo,” biologically speaking, they’re birds of a different feather. Buffalo (Cape buffalo and water buffalo) are native only to Africa and Asia, whereas Bison are native to North America. Both are members of the Bovidae family

The Henry Mountains in Utah are the home of the only free-roaming and huntable herd of American bison in the 48 contiguous United States. In 1941, 18 head were transplanted from Yellowstone National Park to the Henry Mountain area. Today that number has increased to over 300 animal

On May 9, 2016, President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act into law, officially making the American Bison the National Mammal of the Unites States of America


Bison 101

Common Name: American Bison

Scientific name: Bison bison

Habitat: Typical habitat is open or semiopen grasslands, as well as sagebrush, semiarid lands, and scrublands

Size: Bulls weigh up to 2,000 pounds and stand 6 feet tall. Cows weigh up to 1,000 pounds and reach a height of 4-5 feet. Bison calves weigh 30-70 pounds at birth

Diet: They prefer eating primarily grasses and sedges. They also drink water or consume snow on a daily basis

Reproduction: Mating season is from July to September. Females are ready to mate at 2.5 years. Males aren’t ready until 6. The female gives birth to a single calf after about 9 months. The calf is usually weaned by the time it is 7 months old

Lifespan: Around 15 years in the wild

A herd of bison have been called a gang – more recently a herd

Quick Facts

  •  Bison can jump 6 feet vertically  and run 35-40 mph when agitated.
  • While Bison have poor eyesight, they have  excellent senses of smell and hearing. Cows and calves communicate using pig-like grunts, and during mating season, bulls can be heard bellowing across long distances.
  • Called wallowing, bison roll in the dirt to deter biting flies and to help shed fur.
  • A major problem that bison face today is a lack of genetic diversity due to the population bottleneck species experienced during its near-extinction event.
  • Yellowstone National Park is the only place in the U.S. where bison have continuously lived since prehistoric times.
  • Mature males and females live apart except during breeding season. Each bison group has a dominant male or female.
  • the bison’s thick, shaggy coat is so well insulated that snow can settle on its back without melting.