American Bison

Although rare, the American bison has been saved from extinction. Once, vast herds of over a million bison grazed the vast prairies of western North America, often making migrations of several thousand kilometres to winter feeding grounds in the south. Bison were also widely killed for their skin and meat. Originally, bison also occurred extensively in mountain areas, and also in open forest and woodland.

These large grazing animals have well-developed senses of smell and hearing. The American bisons can run at up to 60 kmh (37 mph) and are also able to swim well, sometimes crossing rivers as wide as 1 km (0.6 mile).

Male bison are larger than the females of the species. Both sexes have sharp, curved horns, which stick out from the shaggy, brown hair on their heads.

While American bison may occasionally gather in herds of several hundred, they generally move around in small bands made up of a number of females and their offspring, including young bulls. Mature bulls either live alone or move in separate groups from the cows. During the mating season, in late summer, the males join the females. They fight for the females by ramming each other head-on.

Distribution: Patches of western Canada and central United States.

Habitat: Prairie and woodland.

Food: Grass.

Size: 2.1 - 3.5 m (7 - 11.5 ft); 350 - 1000 kg (770 - 2200 lb). Height at shoulder 1.5 - 2m (5 - 6.5 ft).

Maturity: 1 - 2 years.

Breeding: Single young born in spring every 1 or 2 years.

Life span: 40 years.

Status: Lower risk.