The American bison is the largest mammal in the New World and is an important part of the history of the great North American prairie. Up to 6 million of these magnificent animals used to roam from Canada to northern Mexico, but by the end of the 1800’s they were almost wiped out. Today bison are confined to forest and grassland reserves and some farms and ranches. Bison are fairly curious animals with an acute sense of hearing and smell. They are able to withstand extreme temperatures. The bison grows thick fur in winter and has actually learned to use its head and hooves to remove snow from the vegetation for food. Because it is sometimes difficult to find water to drink during winter, the bison is known to eat snow.
Habitat: Forest and grassland reserves in North America (There are no truly wild bison- all live in parks, reserves, ranches, and farms.)
Diet in the wild: Grass, moss, lichen, dry grass
Diet at Caldwell Zoo: Sweet feed, Caldwell Zoo diet (a pellet made especially for our zoo), coastal hay and mineral block
Size: Weigh 770-2,200 pounds; 6 feet at the shoulder
Family: A single calf is born in spring to a very protective mom who will charge intruders
Status: Near Threatened; only exist in parks, reserves and private ranches
Did you know? In early 2016, President Barack Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act which named the North American bison as the United States of America’s National Mammal.
What’s the difference between a bison and a buffalo? Bison live in North America and some in Europe while buffalo live in Africa and Asia. Bison have shaggy winter coats that are shed in contrast to buffalo which have short hair coats. Bison have short horns that extend sideways and back while buffalo have much larger horns.