Appearance

Bison are the largest ungulates in North America. Females generally weigh 1,000 to 1,100 pounds, and males up to 2,200 pounds. The heaviest wild bull on record was 2,800 pounds.

Early European settlers found the American bison similar in appearance to water buffalo and cape buffalo, and originally called it the American buffalo. The name stuck, and many people still use the name buffalo instead of bison.

Bison in this ecosystem

Yellowstone National Park is the only place in the lower 48 states where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times. The park now contains the largest bison population on public land, estimated at 4,527 as of August 2018.

DIET

American bison spend 9 to 11 hours per day foraging for food. They eat mostly grasses and sedges, but also eat some broad-leafed plants as well. They are ruminants that alternate between eating and chewing their cud.

At the Sanctuary, our bison eats primarily hay.

BEHAVIOR & Lifespan

Bison gather in small groups (20 or so individuals) in the winter, and much bigger herds in the summer, averaging about 200 individuals and sometimes as many as 1,000.

Bison generally live about 15 years in the wild.

Taxonomy

KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Artiodactyla
FAMILY: Bovidae
GENUS: Bison
SPECIES: bison

conservation status

IUCN Status NT.png

Near-Threatened

MOST ACTIVE

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Diurnal

Our Bison

  SPEEDY  was born a runt, and was rejected by her mother. She was raised as a pet, and became so habituated that when we tried to release her into the wild, she wouldn’t go. She’s still small for an American bison — about 750 pounds — but otherwise healthy.

SPEEDY was born a runt, and was rejected by her mother. She was raised as a pet, and became so habituated that when we tried to release her into the wild, she wouldn’t go. She’s still small for an American bison — about 750 pounds — but otherwise healthy.

 

Bison-Related Episodes of our Podcast

 

Bison-related videos from our “Behind the Scenes” series

Behavioral enrichment is an important ongoing process at the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary. We're always looking for ways to improve the animals' lives and their health. In this episode of "Behind the Scenes at the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary," we provide a scratching post for Speedy the bison.