Though bison don’t roam the plains in the millions any more, there are still plenty of places to see America’s new national mammal.
This month, lawmakers named the American bison — which is commonly called the “buffalo” — the “national mammal.” The designation gives the bison a similar status to that of the bald eagle.
Bison, of course, once roamed the American plains in the tens of millions but were hunted nearly to the brink of extinction. Over the course of the 20th century, however, conservation and breeding efforts brought the animal back and, though their numbers are still far lower than they once were, bison herds can be found all over the U.S. Below are some of the places where those herds can be found, and observed.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone is the most famous place in the U.S. to see bison, and with good reason; two herds in the park include nearly 5,000 animals. Yellowstone bison are also genetically pure, while many other herds carry genes from having intermingled with domestic cattle.
Antelope Island, Utah
Antelope Island is located in the Great Salt Lake (due to drought and low water levels, it’s not always an island). It’s a state park and about an hour drive from downtown Salt Lake City. Bison were first introduced on the island in 1893 and there is now a bison roundup every October. Incredibly, the roundup is open to both seasoned cowboys and inexperienced dudes.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Catalina Island, California
Catalina Island lies just off the coast of Los Angeles, so it’s fitting that the bison herd there was originally introduced, in 1924, for a film. The herd eventually grew to as many as 600 animals, but today is kept between 150 and 200. The animals can be seen from roads and hiking trails, or there are private tours of the island.
National Bison Range, Montana
The National Bison Range was established in 1908 specifically to bolster the animal’s dwindling numbers. Today, the range has a herd of up to 500 animals. Several driving routes cut through the area, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service touts as a prime place to photograph bison and other fauna.
Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, Iowa
The 700-acre Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge, which was created in 1990, has a heard of about 75 bison. The refuge is open daily and people are allowed to drive through to view the animals, which also include elk and deer.
For more bison herds and viewing opportunities, check out this list.
— Jim Dalrymple II
* Cover image via Creative Commons/Kabsik Park