An American bison resting in the grass at Emerald park

American bison

Bison bison
Conservation status IUCN
Near threatened

For more info on classifications visit

endangered list labels near threatened
endangered list near threatened sign
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    Animal class
    Mammal, bovidae
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    Open semi-natural grasslands such as prairies and plains.
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    Herbivores – they feed mainly on grasses and sedges.
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    Conservation status
    Near threatened
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    Approximately 13,000 mature individuals.
  • Introduction

    American bison are the heaviest land animal in North America.

    They are ungulates and along with cattle and goats are part of the family bovidae. They can gallop at speeds up to 60km and are good swimmers as they are quite buoyant in the water.

    American bison are social animals that live in herds of up to 30 individuals. Their shaggy fur offers them incredible insulation during the harsh winters. Bison move continuously while grazing and do not overgraze an area; but rather support a healthy landscape for both flora and fauna.

  • Conservation

    American bison are classified as near threatened.

    American bison populations were once on the brink of extinction. There was once millions of bison found across America, however in the 19th century, over-hunting caused the population to collapse, leaving fewer than 100. Thanks to conservation work, the species has been protected and managed, however, there is still only a small number of free roaming bison found today.

    Threats to the population include habitat loss, reduction of genetic diversity, crossbreeding, with domestic cattle, and culling, to prevent spread of bovine diseases to agricultural stock, have left these majestic animals less than secure in the wild.

    It is estimated that there are currently between 11,000 and 13,000 free-ranging mature individuals. *


  • Habitat

    American bison once roamed from Alaska to Mexico but now can only be found in the Western United States, mainly in Yellowstone National Park and in Canada. Typical bison habitats are open semi-natural grasslands such as prairies and plains. They can be found at all elevations, in the protected areas that they live.

  • Fun Facts

    American bison communicate through grunts and snorts. They have excellent vision and use their sense of smell to detect danger.

    Bisons mating season lasts from June to September. A dominant bull will protect a small group of females to mate with. One calf will be born after a gestation period of approximately 290 days. Within 3 hours of birth calves can run but stay close by their mothers. Females will stay close to their calf and protect it for up to a year.

    They have specially adapted stomachs with four chambers full of unique microbes that allows them to breakdown coarse plant materials.