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.
Distribution: Forest and grassland reserves in North America.
Diet in the Wild: Grasses, flowering plants, woody plant leaves and lichens.
Diet at Caldwell Zoo: Grain and hay
IUCN Red List Status: Near threatened, population stable; only exist in parks, reserves and private ranches
Threats: Habitat loss, artificial selection of traits for commercial purposes, restricted exposure to full range of natural environments and cross-breeding between subspecies.
In 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.
Bison are now nationally classified as both wildlife and livestock in the United States, Canada and Mexico due to the abundance of private and commercial herds. In the United States, only 10 states classify bison as wild in portions of or the entirety of the state.
As of 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has determined that wild bison cover less than 1.2% of their historic range, and that there are only five naturally sustainable wild populations of American bison left
The terms “bison” and “buffalo” actually refer to two different groups of animals. Bison are native to North America and Europe, have thick winter coats which they can shed and have short horns that extend sideways and back. Buffalo are native to Africa and Asia, have only short-haired coats and have comparatively large horns.
Eloh and Scooby
Our two bison are very close to one another and stay within close proximity of one another. They are usually laid-back with their behavior but sometimes can get anxious if people get too close to them. They love to sun-bathe on the Texas yard and some of their favorite enrichment includes playing with fresh dirt mounds, cedar trees and eating browse. Scooby was born in 2000 and came from Tri Lake Exotics in 2001; she has one horn up and one horn down. Eloh was born in 2007 and came from Cameron Park Zoo in 2009; both of her horns are pointed straight up.