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American buffalo

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American buffalo
Bison 1.jpg
Scientific Classification
Species

The American buffalo is a species of bison known by the scientific name Bison bison. It is the largest living land animal in North American. The name buffalo is somewhat of a misnomer as the bison is distinct from the "true buffalo" and only distantly related. In contrast, the bison live in North America, it has thicker fur, shorter horns, and the bison is much larger than the buffalo. [1]

Bison weigh up to a ton. They are over twelve feet long, and are quite the beast. Despite their massive size, the bison can really run. They are often clocked at up to 35 mph.[2]

Bison once roamed in very large numbers, but they were hunted to near extinction. Now the bison has escaped that danger, but there are nowhere near as many bison now as before. The bison were mainly hunted for their meat, and their very thick fur that could keep the natives warm in the winter.[3]

Contents

Anatomy

Bison are the largest land-dwelling mammal in North America. They are characterized by their huge furry head with relatively small horns, and the large hump found on their back. The front of the bison's body is mostly covered in long fur, where as the back of the bison is covered in short fur. [4] [5]

Bison can be anywhere from 6 to 6.5 feet tall, and up to 12 feet long from nose to tail. Male bison sometimes weigh in at 2000 pounds, while the smaller female bison can weigh a comparatively smaller 900 pounds. They average a lifespan of 20 years in the wild, but in a zoo, they can live to be up to 30 years old. [6]

Reproduction

A bison and bison calf.

The reproduction in bison is a pretty slow process. This contributed to a large part of why the bison population dropped so quickly, and is still quite low. Bison may mate anywhere between June and September, with the majority of it happening in July or August. After mating, it takes up to 185 days for the single calf to be born. This usually takes place somewhere in April or May. Also, the crossbreeding of bison with cattle, is highly discouraged, as it weakens the bison's genes. However, this still happens and today there are very few wild bison with complete bison genes.[7]

Ecology

Bison's natural habitat

Before the Bison were mass-hunted by settlers, there were more than 30 million bison roaming the plains. They grazed in large herds that sometimes went on for miles. [8] Bison mainly eat grasses. They would roam all over North America, in an unpredictable movement. This caused either starvation via famine, or an abundance of food for the other animals. Their herds provided protection from predators like the wolf, bear, or even Indian tribes. [9]

In the 1870's bison were basically slaughtered by settlers, and by 1889 there were hardly more than 1000 bison left. They were extremely close to extinction. Now though, there are over half a million bison in existence. Thanks to the Canadian government which stepped in and started a program for the repopulation of bison. Now, every year there are 350,000 bison killed for food, as compared to the 125,000 cows that die every day in the U.S. [10] [11]

Conservation

Pile of bison skulls waiting to be ground into fertilizer. Just a very small percentage of all the millions of bison slaughtered.

The conservation of bison all started when the Canadian government bought a herd of bison in Montana, and moved them to a specially designed bison park. [12] Also, in 1889 William Hornaday saved the bison that were left, and moved them to the Bronx Zoo (he was the director of the zoo). Then in 1905, the American Bison Society was started. Their mission was to set aside safe land for the bison, and to save them. [13]

Then there were the private efforts by ranchers. They captured wild bison, and held them on their ranch. Having their own protection plan. They often then sold them to zoos or national parks. Charles Goodnight is most famous for this. He saved over 125 bison. [14]

References


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