Photo by Bob Gress
Total Length: 80-150 inches
Tail Length: 17-33 inches
Weight: 900-2,000 pounds
American bison, or "buffalo," are the heaviest land mammal
native to North America. Prior to settlement an estimated 60 million bison roamed North
America. They were a major resource for the Great Plains Indians providing food, shelter,
clothing, fuel, tools and dozens of other items essential for survival. The last wild
bison in Kansas was killed in 1879 at Point of Rocks north of Elkhart. Bison frequently
wallowed in dusty or muddy spots to shed hair and rid themselves of insect and parasite
pests. Thousands of these saucer-shaped "buffalo wallows," some 30 feet across
and more than 2 feet deep, are still visible today. Bison breed from early July to late
September. Cows usually deliver one reddish calf weighing up to 35 pounds in April or May.
They can live up to 30 years.
Bison were originally found from Mexico to Canada and throughout much of the United
States but most numerous in the Great Plains. Public and private captive herds are
scattered across Kansas. The best viewing opportunities exist at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge
near Canton and Finney Game Refuge near Garden City.
Bison are grazers feeding on a variety of grasses and forbs.
For more information, see the GPNC portrait web page for Bison.
Return to the Mammal's Den!
Text: George Potts and Bob Gress
Design: Jim Mason