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Endangered Species Series | American Bison (Bison bison)

The Endangered Species Series showcases endangered and threatened species around the world through wildlife scratchboard artwork and education about the creatures.

Wildlife and the natural world play a very important role in my work as an artist - they are my inspiration and now part of my motivation. I want my art to be more than just pretty pictures to hang on walls - I want it to have a greater purpose. I feel a responsibility to protect the world that inspires me every single day. This series is a journey of learning for myself and all of you who choose to educate yourselves about the beautiful creatures in our world that are losing their habitats, their food sources, and are being killed for various reasons. Please join me each week to celebrate the many unique species of our world and learn more about their story and place in history. Together, we can take bigger steps in making a difference.

American Bison (Bison bison)

The symbolic animal of the American Great Plains.

The American Bison is listed as near threatened, not 'endangered', but today are considered "ecologically extinct" throughout most of their historic range.

Height: 5 - 6.5 ft at shoulder

Weight: over a ton

Sharp horns up to 2 ft long

Speed: up to 40 mph

Average Life Span: 12-20 years in the wild

Food: grass, herbs, shrubs, and twigs

Females (cows) live in small family groups, where males (bulls) live solitarily or in small groups - the two only come together to mate during the summer.

The American Bison once covered the Great Plains and much of North America. They were essential in shaping the ecology of the landscape and were critically important to the Native American societies. During the 19th century, the American Bison population was reduced to only a few hundred from the 50 million that once roamed the land. Settlers killed the bison for "food, sport, and to deprive the Native peoples of their most important natural asset."

Today, the American Bison population has rebounded somewhat. The largest population of wild American Bison (5,000) live in Yellowstone National Park. About 200,000 live on preserves and ranches where they are raised for meat. These populations are not truly wild - they have been cross-bred with cattle.

Fun Fact: Trails carved by bison and other animals during their seasonal migration formed some of the earliest traceable paths into the American wilderness and Native Americans, explorers, and pioneers followed them.


The American Bison is often mistakenly called 'buffalo'. "The American Bison lives only in North America, while the two main species of buffalo reside in Africa and Asia." Both species belong to the Bovidae family, which includes 100+ species of hoofed animals (antelopes, gazelles, cattle, sheep, etc).

Sources: National Geographic, Defenders of Wildlife, and Live Science.

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