Bison, scientifically known as bison bison surprisingly enough, is the largest land mammal in North America. They stand 5 to 6.5 feet (1.5 to 2 meters) tall at the shoulders with their head and body measuring 7 to 11.5 feet (2.1 to 3.5 meters) in length. Their tails are 19.75 to 23.5 inches (50 to 60 centimeters) and they weigh in at 930 to 2,500 pounds (422 to 1,300 kilograms) with males (called bulls) being larger than females (called cows). Bison have long, shaggy coats of hair on the front legs, neck and shoulders and shorter, finer hair on the rest of the body. Some fur is shorter than others while others are longer depending on their environment. They also have small curving horns that can reach 2 feet (61 centimeters) in length on their large heads.
Bison are located in a few national parks and other small wildlife areas throughout North America. Bulls and cows will usually live in small groups (called herds), separate of each other and come together during the mating season. Females will lead family herds while Males will sometimes live alone. Bison will often roll, rub and wallow creating saucer-like depressions called wallows.
Grazing is one of the things bison are known for. They will eat grasses, herbs, shrubs and twigs. They are known to regurgitate their food and chew it as cud before their final digestion of it. During the winter, bison will dig through the snow with their heads in order to reach the vegetation below. Their great sense of smell as well as their exceptional hearing lets them find food as well as their few predators. Bears, cougars and wolves are some of the few creatures who would try to take down a bison.
Mating season for bison takes place from June to September with the peak being in July and August. Bulls will fight other bulls for the right to mate with cows. Despite their massive size, these conflicts are rarely fatal. Females have a gestation period of 270 to 285 days. They will give birth to a single calf each year around April or May. Calves are lighter in color than the adults. If they can survive, the calves can live to be 15 to 20 years old.
Bison used to number in the millions across North America. They were hunted to near extinction (with only around 1,000 left) during the 1800s for food, sport and to take away the most important natural asset of the Native Americans. Today, conservation efforts have helped to raise their numbers to around 500,000 in North America. However, most are not pure bison and have been cross bred with cattle and are raised as livestock in ranches. In actuality, there are only around 5,000 free-ranging, disease-free bison left. Hopefully, a permanent solution can be found to save them. After all, such a grand symbol of North America deserves to live and prosper as it once did.
“American Bison” 29 November 2010
“Bison” 29 November 2010
“Bison” 29 November 2010