Open Spaces: Meet the Species: Plains Bison

Meet the Species: Plains Bison

Once, their habitat stretched from coast to coast.

Now, their numbers are much smaller, but thanks to conservation efforts, they still exist as a living symbol of the United States.

The plains bison (Bison bison bison) is a subspecies of the American bison that was historically found from central Canada to northern Mexico and nearly from coast to coast.

bison-altered(Image: USFWS)

They were eliminated west of the Rocky Mountains and east of the Mississippi River by the early 1800s.

By 1889, only a few wild plains bison remained in the Texas panhandle, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and the western Dakotas, as well as a small number in captive herds. Diligent work by a few individuals prevented extinction.

Conservation efforts by private landowners, state and federal agencies, and others helped to rebuild herds.

Currently, there are over 400,000 plains bison living in national parks, preserves, other public lands, and on private lands -- and population trends have been on an upward swing in recent years.

We're continuing cooperative efforts to preserve bison populations in our country. Check out the Interagency Bison Management Plan to get more info about which groups are involved.

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Last updated: June 21, 2012