AMERICAN BISON – Bison bison


American bison facts: Females are 20 percent shorter in length and 40 percent less in weight than males. Males measure 85.2 to 125.2 inches (242 to 318 centimeters) long and stand 65.7 to 73.2 inches (167 to 186 centimeters) at the shoulder. They weigh between 1,199 to 1,999.5 pounds (544 to 907 kilograms). This is the largest mammal in North America. Though it appears to hold its head low, there is actually a hump over the shoulders. Legs are short and tail is medium length with a tuft of black hair on the end. Coat is brown to dark brown, and hair is longer on front and top of head, along the neck, shoulders, and forequarters. Ears are partially hidden. Both sexes have a beard of long hair as well as a mane of dark hair along the lower portion of the neck to the chest. Males have short black horns that go out on the sides and curve upward. Females’ horns are shorter, skinnier, and more curved.

Geographic range: Found in a select few parks and refuges of North America.

American bison habitat: This bovid needs plenty of grassland and meadow for grazing. It lives in mixed wood forests as well as prairies and plains.

What does american bison eat: The American bison is not picky about what it eats. They eat huge quantities of low-quality forage (grasses, herbs, and shrubs) and supplement their diet with berries and lichen (fungi found growing on trees). Uses head to remove snow from vegetation during winter.

Behavior and reproduction: Form mixed groups consisting of females, calves, and males aged one to three years. During mating season, adult males may join these herds. Males form groups of up to thirty animals, though they also are found alone or in pairs. During migration, herds join together and may travel more than 124 miles (200 kilometers) to find ranges where food is more plentiful. American bison like to wallow in shallow holes which they dig in the ground.

These polygynous bovids mate from July through September, with seasons varying depending on the region. Females go through 285 days of gestation and deliver a single calf in the spring, usually each year. They like to give birth in heavily concealed areas for privacy and protection, and they stay separated from the rest of the herd for a couple days. Within three hours of birth, the calf can run, and it is nursed for seven to twelve months.

American bison and people: Bison were important game animals for native populations across North Amerca. They provided meat, bones for tools, hides for blankets, leather for clothing, and sinews for twine. Today, bison is raised on ranches for its meat.

Conservation status: Bison are not considered threatened. They once ranged across half of North America and numbered in the millions. Because they are ranched throughout the continent, their population is not in danger of extinction, despite the fact that very few live in the wild. Disease and parasites are the main threats to the American bison.