America's largest land animal, the American bison once stamped its mark across the entire continent – from Alaska to the Appalachian Mountains. About 150 years ago, some 30 million of them roamed the Great Plains. A keystone species, bison helped create this vast expanse of prairie by scuffing up the soil and dispersing seeds. But when hunting turned into a mass slaughter during the 1800s, bison numbers plummeted to fewer than 1,000 individuals and it's only relatively recently that America's national mammal has been brought back from the brink of extinction. Although Yellowstone National Park is the only place in the United States where bison have continuously lived since prehistoric times, public lands managed by the US Department of the Interior now support 10,000 bison in 17 herds across 12 states.
Did you know... bison calves are born March-May and are nicknamed 'red dogs' due to their orange-red colour.
RANGE & HABITAT
American bison are creatures of the open plains and prairie grasslands. Restricted to parks and reserves, Yellowstone and Wood Buffalo National Parks are two of the best places to see them. Constantly on the move, they feed own grasses and sedges.
The American bison is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species with a population of around 20,000. Threats include habitat loss, disease and the loss of genetic diversity due to small, isolated herds and inbreeding with cattle.