The American Bison (Bison bison)

This impressive bovine is one of two bison species that exist today, the other being the European bison (Bison bonasus). There is a subspecies of the American bison that inhabits the northern reaches of bison territory known as the wood bison (Bison bison ssp. athabascae), which is distinguishable from its plains counterpart because of its more pronounced hump, triangular-shaped head, and less defined shoulder cape.

Bison are the largest wild terrestrial mammal in North America. Weighing up to 2,000 lbs for males and 1,200 lbs for females, they are larger than both moose and grizzly bears. Calves can weigh from 30 to 70 lbs at birth. Surprisingly agile for their size, they've been known to leap over barbed wire fences and can gallop up to 37mph.

European settlers hunted the American bison nearly to extinction by the late 1800s, but extensive conservation efforts have stabilized wild populations. However, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) still lists the bison's species recovery score at 17% – critically depleted – as it is absent from many of its indigenous territories.

✔️ Jirik, Kate. “LibGuides: American Bison (Bison Bison) Fact Sheet: Population & Conservation Status.”, 22 Mar. 2024, ✔️ Cormack, et al. “IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Bison Bison.” IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Name, Sept. 2016,