Bison bison montanae
Plains bison (
Bison bison bison) is one of two subspecies/ecotypes
of the American bison, the other being the wood bison (B. b.
athabascae).[a] A natural population of Plains bison
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park (the Yellowstone Park bison herd
consisting of about 3,000 bison) and multiple smaller reintroduced
herds of bison in many places in Canada and the United States.
1 Near-extinction and reintroduction of herds
3 See also
6 External links
Near-extinction and reintroduction of herds
At one time, at least 25 million
American bison were spread across the
United States and Canada. However, by the late 1880s, the total number
of bison in the United States had been reduced to fewer than 600
individuals. Most of these were collected onto various private
ranches, and the last known free-roaming population of bison consisted
of less than 30 in the area which later became Yellowstone National
Park. Though it was the official policy of the United States
government to minimize or eliminate the bison, and most farmers and
ranchers considered bison to be a pest or nuisance, some people were
concerned about the demise of this North American icon, so individual
landowners took steps to protect a few. Some people saved bison with
the express purpose of ranching or hunting them (see Antelope Island
bison herd), but some groups such as the American
Bison Society were
also formed with the idea of saving the species and reintroducing them
to at least part of their previous natural range.
Plains bison have
since been reintroduced into a number of locations around North
America. Five main foundation herds of
American bison supplied animals
intended to save them from extinction. The northernmost
introduction occurred in 1928 when the
Alaska Game Commission brought
bison to the area of present-day Delta Junction.
Bison taken from this
transplant were also introduced to other
Alaska locations, including
Farewell and Chitina. The Delta Junction herd prospered the most,
with a population of several hundred throughout the late 20th century.
This herd is popular with hunters interested in hundreds of pounds of
high-quality meat, but has been a problem for farming operations in
the area. Though
American bison generally prefer grasslands and plains
habitats, they are quite adaptable and live in conditions ranging from
desert, as in the case of the Henry Mountains bison herd, to forested
areas, such as those of the Yellowstone Park bison herd; yet, they are
all of the same subspecies
Bison bison bison. Currently, over 500,000
bison are spread over the United States and Canada. However, most of
these are on private ranches, and some of them have small amounts of
hybridized cattle genes. Significant public bison herds that do
not appear to have hybridized domestic cattle genes are the
Yellowstone Park, the Henry Mountains, the Wind Cave, and the Wood
Buffalo National Park bison herds and subsidiary herds descended from
it in Canada.
Park officials transferred
Plains bison from Fort Niobrara National
Wildlife Refuge to Theodore Roosevelt National Park's South Unit in
1956 and its North Unit in 1962 for population increase.
Plains bison from
Elk Island National Park
Elk Island National Park were released into
Prince Albert National Park
Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan, creating the Sturgeon
River bison herd. At a population around 300 animals, they form a free
herd able to wander where they please. The bison are spread throughout
Prince Albert National Park's southwestern corner, as well as some
crown and private land in the area.
Plains bison from
Elk Island National Park
Elk Island National Park in
released into Saskatchewan's Grasslands National Park. This marks the
Plains bison have wandered the shortgrass prairies of
Canada since their near-extinction at the turn of the 20th century.
According to the national agency Parks Canada, the entire breeding
population of these wild and "semiwild" bison are the descendants of
just eight individuals that survived the period of near-extinction,
due to overhunting and tuberculosis infecting the herd that the
government belatedly attempted to conserve.
A herd of about 650 of these animals lives in, and can be seen at, the
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, Oklahoma. The herd was
started in 1907 with stock from the New York Zoological Park, now
known as the
Bronx Zoo and located in the Bronx Park. Fifteen animals
were shipped to Oklahoma, where bison had already become extinct due
to excessive hunting and overharvesting by non-native commercial
buffalo hunters from 1874 to 1878. Some of these specimens have
been released in other areas of the United States, such as Paynes
Prairie in Florida.
Only one Southern
Plains bison herd was established in Texas. A
remnant of the last of this relict herd had been saved in 1876.
"Molly" Goodnight had encouraged her rancher husband, Charles
Goodnight, to save some of the last bison which were taking refuge in
Texas Panhandle. By saving these few Plains bison, she was able to
establish a buffalo herd near the Palo Duro Canyon. This herd peaked
at 250 in 1933.
Bison of this herd were introduced into the
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park in 1902 and into the larger zoos and ranches
throughout the nation. A herd of around 80 of these animals lives in
Caprock Canyons State Park
Caprock Canyons State Park near Quitaque, Texas, located about 50
miles northeast of Plainview, Texas.
In 2013, bison were reintroduced to Fort Belknap Indian Reservation
from Yellowstone National Park.
A herd of
Plains bison were successfully reintroduced to Banff
National Park in
Alberta in early 2017. The bison are to be kept under
observation in an enclosed pasture of the park until the summer of
2018, according to Parks Canada.
Besides using the meat, fat, and organs for food,
Plains tribes have
traditionally created a wide variety of tools and items from bison.
These include arrow points, awls, beads, berry pounders, hide
scrapers, hoes, needles from bones, spoons from the horns, bow strings
and thread from the sinew, waterproof containers from the bladder,
paint brushes from the tail and bones with intact marrow, and cooking
oil from tallow. Skulls can be used ceremonially as altars.
Rawhide is used for parfleches, shield covers, and moccasin soles.
Hides with the fur are used for blankets, wraps, and warm clothing.
Tanned hides, the finest of which are tanned with the animal's brains
and then smoked, are used in clothing, moccasins, tipi covers,
calendars, and artwork.
Antelope Island bison herd
Buffalo Hunters' War
Great bison belt
Plains hide painting
Red River War
^ It has been suggested that the
Plains bison consists of a northern
(B. b. montanae) and a southern subspecies, bringing the total to
three. However, this is generally not supported.
^ Gates, C. & Aune, K. 2008.
Bison bison. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red
List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1.
<www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 06 September 2012.
^ Geist V. (1991). "Phantom subspecies: the wood bison,
"athabascae" Rhoads 1897, is not a valid taxon, but an ecotype".
Arctic. 44 (4): 283–300. doi:10.14430/arctic1552.
^ Kay, Charles E.; Clifford A. White (2001). "Reintroduction of bison
into the Rocky Mountain parks of Canada: historical and archaeological
evidence" (PDF). Crossing Boundaries in Park Management: Proceedings
of the 11th Conference on Research and Resource Management in Parks
and on Public Lands. Hancock, Michigan: The George Wright Society,
Inc. pp. 143–151. Retrieved December 2, 2009.
^ Bork, A. M., C. M. Strobeck, F. C. Yeh, R. J. Hudson, & R. K.
Salmon (1991). "Genetic relationship of wood and plains bison based on
restriction fragment length polymorphisms" (PDF). Can J Zool. 69 (1):
43–48. doi:10.1139/z91-007. CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors
list (link) [permanent dead link]
^ Wilson, G. A., & C. Strobeck (1999). "Genetic variation within
and relatedness among wood and plains bison populations". Genome. 42
(3): 483–496. doi:10.1139/gen-42-3-483. PMID 10382295. CS1
maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) [permanent dead link]
^ Boyd, Delaney P. (2003). Conservation of North American Bison:
Status and Recommendations (PDF) (MS thesis). University of Calgary.
Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-01-17. Retrieved December 2,
^ Halbert, Natalie D., Terje Raudsepp, Bhanu P. Chowdhary, & James
N. Derr (2004). "Conservation Genetic Analysis of the
Bison Herd". Journal of Mammalogy. 85 (5): 924–931.
doi:10.1644/BER-029. CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list
^ TPWD: News Release
^ a b
Texas Parks and Wildlife
Alaska Hunting and Trapping Information,
Alaska Department of Fish
and Game". Wc.adfg.state.ak.us. Retrieved April 21, 2012.
^ Remove Threats to Irreplaceable
Bison Herd at Wind Cave National
Park. FY 2006 Challenge Cost Share Program. Final Project Report.
September 30, 2007. Retrieved on September 16, 2011.
Parks Canada pamphlet titled
Parks Canada and Plains Bison, no date,
no stated author, available online, 
^ , U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Accessed April 21, 2012
^ John Cornyn, The Winkler Post, Molly Goodnight Archived 2012-06-17
at the Wayback Machine.
^ Indian Country today 23 August 2013
Bison return to Banff national park in Canada
^ Hunt, David. Native Indian Wild Game, Fish, and Wild Foods Cookbook.
Lancaster, PA: Fox Chapel Publishing, 1992: 41.
^ "What Can You Make from a Buffalo?". Smithsonian Natural Museum of
American History. Retrieved June 6, 2017.
Bison and American Indian Nations". Smithsonian National
Zoological Park Conservation Biology Institute. Retrieved June 6,
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Plains bison return to the Prairies
Zao Novbizon, bison farm in Novgorod, Russia