Bison, American (Buffalo)
The American Bison is the largest land animal in North America. Males can stand six feet from hoof to shoulder and weigh between 1000-2000 pounds. Females are around five feet tall and weigh between 800-1000 pounds. The American Bison has a long shaggy dark brown coat with long shaggy hairs on its forequarters, which extends down its front legs, neck, and shoulders and it has a bearded chin. Occasionally its coat is gray, speckled or cream colored. Calves are born a light reddish brown color, but change to dark brown by 6 months of age. On their forehead, the hair is woolly and curly, giving the American Bison a mop-like appearance between the horns. The shoulders are massive and humped and it usually carries its head low. The short horns are present in both sexes and arch backwards, outwards, and then upwards, curving slightly in at the blunt tips.
The American Bison lives on plains, prairies and river valleys. It was previously found in most of Canada, the United States and parts of Mexico, but wild populations are now limited to national parks and refuges. They can be found in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, National Bison Range in the Flathead Valley of Montana, the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Oklahoma, the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in northern Nebraska, Sullys Hill National Wildlife Refuge in northwestern North Dakota, Walnut Creek National Wildlife Refuge in central Iowa and the Wood Buffalo National Park in Northwest Territory, Canada.
The American Bison is a grazer. Its diet is mostly made up of grasses and sedges and it occasionally eats berries and lichen. During the winter, the American Bison uses its head and hooves to move snow off the vegetation in order to feed.
American Bison meat tastes similar to fine beef with a slightly sweeter and richer flavor.
The American Bison spends the warm hours of the day resting, chewing its cud or wallowing in dirt. It is most active in the early morning and late afternoon. They live in a variety of groups. Females and young males may live in groups of up to 20 individuals. Males also live in groups of up to 20 other males, or in smaller groups or individually. Mature males and females usually live apart except during breeding season. Each Bison group has a dominant male or female. Female Bison are ready to mate when they are two to three years old. Males aren't ready to mate until they are about six years old. The mating season takes place between July through September. When mating season begins, male Bison move into female groups and select a female, which they 'tend.' Males tend a female by staying between her and the rest of the herd. Tending can last for a few minutes or for several days. If a female isn't interested in a male, she walks away. Males will threaten and sometimes attack other males that try to get too close to a female he is tending. Fights between males can involve head butting, shoving, or locking of horns. The female gives birth to one calf after a nine-month gestation period. She goes to an isolated area to give birth. Newborn Bison are reddish brown and can stand soon after birth. The mother and her calf stay isolated from the herd for a couple of days. After two months the calf begins to develop shoulder humps and horns. The calf is usually weaned by the time it is seven months old. American Bison can live up to 25 years in the wild. Despite their massive size, American Bison are able to run at speeds of up to 50 kmph/ 30 mph and swim rivers over 1 kilometer/ 0.6 miles wide. During the breeding seasons males will bellow loudly and the sound may carry up to 5 kilometers / 3 miles.
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