AMERICAN BISON

Scientific Name: Bison bison
Order
Artiodactyla (even toed ungulates)

Family
Bovidae (antelope, cattle, gazelles, goats, sheep and relatives)

Habitat & Range
American bison most commonly inhabit river valleys, prairies and plains. Their typical habitat is open or semi-open grasslands, as well as sagebrush, semi-arid lands and scrublands.

Identification
Bison are the largest terrestrial animals in North America. Males can stand up to 6 feet tall from hoof to shoulder and weigh between 1000 and 2000 lbs. Females stand about 5 feet tall and weigh between 800 and 1000 lbs. They have dark brown shaggy hair with large hooves and a shaggy mane and beard. They have massive heads with muscular necks, humped shoulders and short legs.

Diet
American bison are grazers. They primarily feed on prairie grasses, sedges and forbs but may sometimes feed on berries, lichens and horsetails. Their heads hang low and are supported by several large muscles, allowing them to sweep their heads from side to side to clear snow and access the vegetation underneath.

Reproduction & Lifespan
Mating season begins in June and lasts through September. During the breeding season, dominant bulls maintain a small harem of females for mating. Individual bulls "tend" cows until allowed to mate by following them around and chasing away rival males. The gestational period is about 9 months.

American bison have a life expectancy of 15 years in the wild and up to 25 years in captivity.

Fantastic Fact
No Bulls Allowed
With the exception of mating season, male and female bison live in separate herds. Females live in maternal herds that include other females and their offspring. Male offspring leave the maternal herd at about 3 years of age and will either live alone or join other males in a bachelor herd.

 
 
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