Our National Mammal: The American Bison

The National Bison Legacy Act went into effect this month, officially making the North American Bison our national mammal. (If you’re a bald eagle fan, don’t worry – the bald eagle remains the national bird of the United States.)

The bison is an excellent choice for the honor of national mammal. Bison once numbered in the millions in the United States. Their range stretched from Canada to Mexico, and from the Great Plains to Buffalo, New York. Many American Indian tribes relied on bison as a source of food and clothing. They also considered the animal to be of great spiritual significance.

The bison, often referred to as buffalo, teetered on the brink of extinction in the 19th century. In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt and others launched the American Bison Society, a national campaign to create wild bison reserves. Due to these early 20th century conservationist efforts, the bison was saved.

Have you ever seen a bison? Here are some places where you can find them:

Always be careful around bison. Ranger Valerie Naylor at Theodore Roosevelt National Park says bison are the most dangerous animals in the park, even though they look calm and docile. “They can run faster than a horse and turn on a dime,” she says. “Generally, if an animal reacts to your presence, you are too close. They (bison) do charge humans.”

Here are 15 facts about our new national mammal:

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