Bison Research Programs

A Keystone Species

The fragile North American grasslands evolved in concert with the Bison.

Bison are North America’s keystone species.  A large focus of the documentary project will focus on the bison’s regenerative impacts on North American ecology.  Over the past several years a narrative has risen that ungulates,  particularly ruminants are harmful to our environment   ‘They are responsible for producing a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions contributing to anthropogenic climate models’. Contrary to these beliefs, ruminants once roamed the world in mass herds out numbering the number of domestic ruminants today.  Our ecology evolved in concert with these majestic creatures.

Understanding the impact of large ungulates and their regenerative capabilities on our landscape is essential in order to restore centuries of environmental degradation. While the scientific debate of greenhouse gasses has become the forefront of environmental focus, it is arguable that land degradation is of more concern.  The loss of soil and proper forest management have led to ecological disasters that are now impacting the global food supply and our very existence.

Studying the impacts of keystone species is essential to mankind.  While these phenomenal creatures may not be able to freely roam the vast majority of their historical range in a modern world, what we learn from them can influence management of domesticated livestock to increase land productivity and reverse environmental degeradation. 

Center of Excellence for Bison Studies

The Center of Excellence for Bison Studies was formally launched in September 2020 as a partnership between South Dakota State University, the National Bison Association and the National Buffalo Foundation. The Center of Excellence for Bison Studies is headquartered at SDSU’s West River Research and Extension facility in Rapid City.

Integrated evidence-based extent of occurrence for North American bison (Bison bison) since 1500 CE and before

Following the near extinction of bison (Bison bison) from its historic range across North America in the late 19th century, novel bison conservation efforts in the early 20th century catalyzed a popular widespread conservation movement to protect and restore bison among other species and places. Since Allen’s initial delineation (1876) of the historic distribution of North American bison, subsequent attempts have been hampered by knowledge gaps about bison distribution and abundance prior to and following colonial arrival and settlement. For the first time, we applied a multidisciplinary approach to assemble a comprehensive, integrated geographic database and meta-analysis of bison occurrence over the last 200,000 years, with particular emphasis on the 450 years before present. We combined paleontology, archaeology, and historical ecology data for our database, which totaled 6438 observations. We derived the observations from existing online databases, published literature, and first-hand exploration journal entries. To illustrate the conservative maximum historical extent of occurrence of bison, we created a concave hull using observations occurring over the last 450 years (n = 3379 observations), which is the broadly accepted historical benchmark at 1500 CE covering 59% of the North American continent. Although this distribution represents a historic extent of occurrence—merely delineating the maximum margins of the near-continental distribution—it does not replace a density-based approach reconstructing potential historical range distributions, which identifies core and marginal ranges. However, we envision the observations contained in this database will contribute to further research in the increasingly evidence-based disciplines of bison ecology, evolution, rewilding, management, and conservation. There are no copyright or proprietary restrictions on these data, and this data paper should be cited when the data are reused.

Are bison amenable or non-amenable? How does the definition of bison affect harvest systems and quality of meat and carcasses?

Currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) considers bison (Bison bison) a non-amenable, “exotic” species. This designation has been applied because bison were first considered a native wildlife game species under states’ laws (i.e. public trust doctrine circa 1700s) and most wildlife laws pre-date agricultural laws (see Geer vs. Connecticut, 161 U.S. 519, 1896: 529–530) and (Byrd et al., 2015). However, in 1979, the Supreme Court decision in Hughes vs. Oklahoma (441 U.S. 322, 1979) declared that wildlife were subject to federal regulation under the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, because wildlife inherently move between states. State fish and wildlife agencies are still the de facto regulatory authority for setting bag limits and harvest quotas for each region.

Does diet matter? Influence of bison finishing systems on composition and meat quality

We evaluated 200 carcasses and meat samples produced from two common bison finishing systems to characterize the influence of diet on key product attributes and to gain insight into consumer preferences for bison meat. Collectively these data indicate that finishing system impacts composition of bison carcasses, nutrient profile of bison meat, and measures of bison meat quality, however both systems produce highly nutritious, healthy, and consumer-favorable meat products. Grain-finished bison heifers had heavier carcass weights by 24%, and well as increased backfat thickness, ribeye area, and marbling compared to grass-finished heifers. Finishing system influenced nutrient content and fatty acid composition, which may have consumer health implications, as grass-finished bison steaks exhibited a decreased cholesterol content, percent fat, and n6 to n3 fatty acid ratio when compared to grain-finished bison steaks. Steaks from grain-finished bison heifers were 8% more tender and exhibited decreased cook loss by 2% compared to grass-finished. Differences exhibited in carcass and meat quality characteristics, however, did not translate to differences in consumer preferences. Overall shear force and sensory results from this study indicate that bison produced from either grain- or grass-finishing systems can provide a favorable eating experience. Producers should consider the variation in fat content, nutritional profile, and tenderness created by different production systems, and could utilize this information to match consumer preferences with differing meat attributes from each finishing system. Further, producers should be cognizant of possible off-flavor characteristics unique to each system.

The Potential of Bison Restoration as an Ecological Approach to Future Tribal Food Sovereignty on the Northern Great Plains

Future climate projections of warming, drying, and increased weather variability indicate that conventional agricultural and production practices within the Northern Great Plains (NGP) will become less sustainable, both ecologically and economically. As a result, the livelihoods of people that rely on these lands will be adversely impacted. This is especially true for Native American communities, who were relegated to reservations where the land is often vast but marginal and non-tribal operators have an outsized role in food production. In addition, NGP lands are expected to warm and dry disproportionately relative to the rest of the United States. It is therefore critical to identify models of sustainable land management that can improve ecological function and socio-economic outcomes for NGP communities, all while increasing resilience to a rapidly changing climate. Efforts led by Native American Nations to restore North American Plains bison (Bison bison bison) to tribal lands can bring desired socio-ecological benefits to underserved communities while improving their capacity to influence the health of their lands, their people, and their livelihoods. Ecological sustainability will depend on the restoration of bison herds and bison’s ability to serve as ecosystem engineers of North America’s Plains. The historically broad distribution of bison suggests they can adapt to a variety of conditions, making them resilient to a wide range of management systems and climates. Here we review bison’s ecological, cultural, and economic value using four case studies from tribal communities within the NGP. We discuss the potential contributions of bison to food sovereignty, sustainable economies, and conservation of a working landscape with limited protections and significant risk of conversion. The ecological role of bison within this setting has potential due to cultural acceptance and the vast availability of suitable lands; however, it is critical to address tribal needs for funding support, enhanced community capacity, and solving complex landownership for these goals to be achieved.

Bison Economics Tool

The bison market has been a vital part of the sustained production and conservation of the species. The bison market has largely been dependent on slaughtered bison meat prices since the 1960s. The primary reporting service for bison market data is the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA AMS) office, providing monthly summaries since November 2012. Leveraging these data is essential to enhance bison production and conservation sustainability. To assist the bison management system in realizing benefits of these USDA AMS market data, the Center of Excellence for Bison Studies at South Dakota State University (SDSU) has developed the SDSU Bison Economics Tool, which is a user-friendly, visual webtool. 

Getting Started With Bison Ranching

North American bison (Bison bison) are an attractive, high-value livestock species that is growing in number and popularity across the United States. While bison ranching has some similarities with cattle ranching, there are significant differences that must be accounted for to ensure long-term sustainability and profitability. Bison are a hardy species that tolerate hot climates of southern Texas and cold climates of northern Canada, utilize a wide variety of native forages and forbs that may not be as palatable to cattle and require less handling than cattle. Furthermore, bison are not domesticated, and therefore they are more wild, larger and stronger than cattle, and they should be managed as such. A few things to consider when starting with or converting to bison ranching: 1) bison largely remain a wild and undomesticated species — treat them as dangerous wildlife, 2) precipitation and drought will affect summer growth and gains — more drought will reduce growth rates and 3) mind your genetics, avoid inbreeding.

Vulnerability assessment of the multi-sector North American bison Bison bison management system to climate change

Grasslands and bison Bison bison are co-evolutionarily dependents, each facing challenges from climate change and land use in the 21st century. Yet each may facilitate the conservation success of the other. Grasslands of the Great Plains once encompassed 2.8 million km2 at the time of European settlement representing 14% of the landmass of the United States and Canada combined (Johnsgard, 2003; Licht, 1997). Since then, Great Plains grasslands have undergone agricultural intensification, especially in the eastern portion of the region (i.e. tallgrass and mixed grass prairies) and today are 90% privately owned (Holechek et al., 2011). Historic populations of bison numbered between 30 and 60 million prior to 1868 (Flores, 1991; Hornaday, 1889) and predominately inhabited the Great Plains (Figure 1). North American bison conservation has overcome an incredible hurdle of restoring populations to nearly 400,000 from fewer than 1,000 individuals in 1884 (Stoneberg Holt, 2018). However, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Red List assessment, considers bison ‘near threatened’, because their assessment relies solely on publicly owned (i.e. Federal and State) ‘conservation’ bison herds (Aune et al., 2017). Publicly owned bison populations have remained static around 30,000 bison since the 1930s because the extent of public lands has not expanded, especially not in the Great Plains (Gates et al., 2010). In addition, the few existing public herds are positioned at the margins of the historical bison range (i.e. in and near the Rocky Mountains) and each have populations that are considered too small (i.e. fewer than 1,000 individuals) for long-term conservation success (Sanderson et al., 2008). Meanwhile, the bison meta-population approaches 400,000, of which nearly 85% of those are privately owned and considered ‘production’ herds (Gates et al., 2010; United States Department of Agriculture, 2016), yet many of these ‘production’ herds satisfy ‘conservation’ guidelines established in the ‘Vermejo Statement’ about bison conservation (Sanderson et al., 2008). This suggests that private bison stewardship and private land conservation (Drescher & Brenner, 2018; Kamal et al., 2015; Lueck, 2002) is essential to maintain this iconic species and its grassland habitats.

Low-Voltage Electrical Stimulation of Beef Carcasses Slows Carcass Chilling Rate and Improves Steak Color

Electrical stimulation (ES) is used in beef slaughter plants to improve tenderness; however, varying levels of low-voltage ES have not been well characterized. The objective was to evaluate the influence of two levels of low-voltage ES on temperature decline, pH, glycolytic potential, and meat quality. Forty-two beef carcasses were chosen from a commercial packing facility. One side of each carcass received either 40 or 80 volts of ES for 60 s at 45 min postmortem. The paired side of each carcass did not receive ES (Control). Temperature loggers were placed in the sirloin of 12 carcasses to record temperature decline. Longissimus muscle pH was measured at 1, 12, and 24 h, and 3 d postmortem. Strip steaks were fabricated for determination of meat quality. A treatment by time interaction was observed for carcass temperature decline (p < 0.001) where ES sides stayed warmer longer than Control sides. A treatment by time interaction was observed for pH decline with Control sides exhibiting an increased pH at 1 h postmortem (p < 0.001). Instrumental color values were increased for ES compared to Control sides (p < 0.001). These results indicate ES slows carcass temperature decline, hastens initial pH decline, and improves instrumental color. Similar results were observed between the ES treatments indicating either ES level may be used to achieve similar quality characteristics.

Bison body size and climate change

The relationship between body size and temperature of mammals is poorly resolved, especially for large keystone species such as bison (Bison bison). Bison are well represented in the fossil record across North America, which provides an opportunity to relate body size to climate within a species. We measured the length of a leg bone (calcaneal tuber, DstL) in 849 specimens from 60 localities that were dated by stratigraphy and 14C decay. We estimated body mass (M) as M = (DstL/11.49)3. Average annual temperature was estimated from δ18O values in the ice cores from Greenland. Calcaneal tuber length of Bison declined over the last 40,000 years, that is, average body mass was 37% larger (910 ± 50 kg) than today (665 ± 21 kg). Average annual temperature has warmed by 6°C since the Last Glacial Maximum (~24–18 kya) and is predicted to further increase by 4°C by the end of the 21st century. If body size continues to linearly respond to global temperature, Bison body mass will likely decline by an additional 46%, to 357 ± 54 kg, with an increase of 4°C globally. The rate of mass loss is 41 ± 10 kg per°C increase in global temperature. Changes in body size of Bison may be a result of migration, disease, or human harvest but those effects are likely to be local and short-term and not likely to persist over the long time scale of the fossil record. The strong correspondence between body size of bison and air temperature is more likely the result of persistent effects on the ability to grow and the consequences of sustaining a large body mass in a warming environment. Continuing rises in global temperature will likely depress body sizes of bison, and perhaps other large grazers, without human intervention.

Influence of Grain- and Grass-Finishing Systems on Carcass Characteristics, Meat Quality, Nutritional Composition, and Consumer Sensory Attributes of Bison

The objective of this study was to determine the influence of two finishing systems (grain- or grass-finishing) on carcass characteristics, meat quality, nutritional composition, and sensory attributes of bison. Bison heifers were assigned to either a grain- or grass-finishing treatment for 130 days prior to slaughter. Carcass measurements, lean color and fat color were recorded. Striploins (M. longissimus lumborum) were collected for analysis of pH, fatty acid profile, cholesterol, proximate analysis, Warner-Bratzler shear force, cook loss, and consumer sensory evaluation. Grain-finished bison heifers had greater (p < 0.01) hot carcass weights, dressing percentage, ribeye area, backfat, and marbling scores compared to grass-finished heifers. Instrumental color values (L*, a*, b*) of the ribeye and a* value of backfat opposite the ribeye were greater (p < 0.01) for grain-finished heifers. Steaks from grain-finished heifers had increased (p < 0.05) crude protein and fat content and decreased (p < 0.01) moisture compared to grass-finished heifers. The grain-finishing system produced steaks with increased (p < 0.01) cholesterol and total fatty acids (mg/g of wet tissue). The grain-finished system produced more tender (p < 0.05) steaks, but consumer sensory ratings did not differ (p > 0.10) between treatments. These data indicate that finishing systems influence bison carcass characteristics, nutritional composition, and meat quality, but do not translate to differences in consumer preferences.

The Presence of Persistent Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus Infection and a Novel Bosavirus in a Bison Herd

Bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) is a significant pathogen of cattle, leading to losses due to reproductive failure, respiratory disease and immune dysregulation. An investigation was conducted in an American bison (Bison bison) herd dealing with reproductive issues in 2018-2019 calving season to determine likely cause of the losses.

Considerations for Winter Bison Management

Bison management in North America is quite diverse, and managers implement various philosophies when raising these icons of the plains. A major challenge for bison managers is the lack of research data on which to base nutrition requirements and management techniques. Years of experience, observation and discussion amongst producers primarily guides decisions. The purpose of this article is not to debate how bison are raised, rather we aim to simply provide food for thought for managing bison herds during a South Dakota winter.

Bison Handler Tailgate Training Safety Manual

Bison Field Necropsy Kits

The Center of Excellence for Bison Studies (BisonCOE) has a limited supply of emergency necropsy kits available for purchase. These kits have supplies and materials included to help you conduct a necropsy, under the supervision of your local veterinarian, on recently deceased bison. At this time, we are providing kits supplied by Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (KSVDL).

Bison Body Condition Scoring Guide

USDA NRCS Body Condition Scoring Worksheet

Mycoplasma Task Force

In late October 2021, the Center of Excellence for Bison Studies (BisonCOE) assembled a team of approximately 20 scientists, stewards, managers, veterinarians, and researchers as a Task Force from various sectors, agencies, universities, and stakeholders to collaboratively advance research related to early detection, treatment, and prevention of Mycoplasma bovis in bison. 

In the 2021 season, there were 21 stakeholder-reported herd cases throughout the U.S. and Canada according to SDSU BisonCOE internal reports. They were widely distributed from Oregon to Pennsylvania and from Saskatchewan to Texas, with most occurring along the Great Plains. The northern Great Plains (i.e., North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana), where most of the current active cases occur (16/21; 76%), are home to 63% of the bison population. 

Code of Practice (2017)

Canadian Bison Association and the National Farm Animal Care Council of Canada

Frequently Asked Questions About Serving Bison and Beef in USDA Child Nutrition Programs in South Dakota

This FAQ document provides responses to commonly asked questions about serving beef and bison in South Dakota Child Nutrition Program (CNP) meals and snacks. The responses apply regardless of whether

the beef or bison is donated to or purchased by the school or CNP operator, and whether the meat is locally raised, locally processed or not. The following refer to federal and state requirements; meat processors or schools can go “above-and-beyond” the requirements described. Local, individual school or tribal requirements or preferences may be more restrictive
or thorough. The document refers to bison and buffalo using these two names interchangeably, since the same animal is referred to both ways in different reference documents.

SDSU Bison Economics Tool

Bison by the Numbers

SDSU hosted Story Map showing the USDA Agricultural Census of bison in the U.S. 

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

NAHMS Bison Studies

The National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS), a nonregulatory unit of USDA-APHIS-VS, is conducting its second national study of the U.S. bison industry from July through November 2022. The NAHMS Bison 2022 Study, conducted in collaboration with the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), is designed to provide a snapshot of current health and management practices on U.S. bison operations. The information collected will also allow for the analysis of trends in specific topics related to bison health, based on a previous NAHMS study, Bison 2014.

NAHMS Bison 2022 Study

From July 2022 through November 2022, the USDA’s National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS), in collaboration with the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), will conduct a national study focusing on ranched bison health and management in the United States. All bison producers and stewards will be able to participate in the study, which is designed to provide a snapshot of current health and management practices on U.S. bison operations. The information collected will also allow for the analysis of trends in specific topics related to bison health, based on the previous bison study, NAHMS Bison 2014.

NAHMS Bison 2022 Study Benefits for You

Producer Guide for Completing the NAHMS Bison 2022 Study Questionnaire

This document provides some background information that might be useful as you complete the questionnaire. Please keep in mind that you can choose to complete the questionnaire online or on the telephone with an interviewer from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Ranched Bison in the United States

By the late 1880s, the American bison herd had been nearly eliminated, decimated by a likely combination of overhunting, habitat degradation, and disease. Fewer than 1,000 animals remained. Public and private conservation efforts were initiated to save the species from extinction both by saving the bison and by protecting grazing land. As a result, the number of bison on public lands began to increase, and private ranchers began to raise bison. The commercial bison industry is a relatively new business that began gaining ground in the late 1960s. 

Today, the North American ranched-bison industry is a multifaceted business that includes meat production, agritourism, sales of byproducts (such as skins and skulls), and conservation of an iconic species. Continued growth within this relatively young livestock sector depends on a healthy herd.

Bison 2014
Health and Management Practices on U.S. Ranched-Bison Operations, 2014

Characteristics of U.S. Ranched- Bison Operations

The USDA National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) conducted its first national study of the U.S. ranched-bison industry in late 2014 and early 2015. One objective of the NAHMS Bison 2014 study was to provide a baseline description of the U.S. ranched-bison industry. This info sheet summarizes results on basic operation characteristics, including bison inventory, reasons for having bison, herd additions and removals, marketing, and plans for the herd.

Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis)

Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) is a bacterial pathogen that recently became a major concern in the North American bison industry when ranchers began reporting high rates of M. bovis morbidity and mortality in their herds.

Operation Management Practices on U.S. Ranched- Bison Operations

Livestock management practices are integral to an operation’s productivity, efficiency, and outcome. One objective of the USDA National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) Bison 2014 study was to describe current production practices within the U.S. bison industry. This info sheet summarizes results on some common practices, including grazing and pasture management, bison identification, handling, and record-keeping.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE Grand Canyon Bison Research

Bison in Grand Canyon

Bison are only found on the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. They are wild animals and are unpredictable. We recommend maintaining a distance of 100 feet (30 meters) from them, and when they are within 100 feet of the road, it is recommended to view them from inside your vehicle. Please use established gravel or paved pull-outs to park vehicles completely off the roadway (all wheels right of the white line). Do not walk or park in the road. B-roll video by L/Cisneros, July 2022.

Bison Facts Grand Canyon National Park

The North American Bison (Bison bison) was designated the official National Mammal of the United States on May 9, 2016. The Plains Bison (Bison bison bison) once roamed the majority of the open grasslands across the United States to northern Mexico. Their historically massive herds are now significantly smaller and mostly found in geographically isolated populations within parks and preserves. The Kiabab Plateau bison herd originally migrated to Grand Canyon National park from House Rock Valley Wildlife Area and has expanded their range inside of Grand Canyon National Park boundaries, exponentially increasing from one confirmed sighting in 1996 to a current estimated population size of approximately 216 individuals. The state of Arizona currently manages and entirely separate herd at House Rock Valley.

Bison at Grand Canyon National Park

  • In the 1500s, bison roamed throughout North America at a total estimated population size of 30-60 million.
  • Nearing extinction after the arrival of settlers, the estimated US bison population in the late 1800’s was approximately 400 individuals.
  • Current estimates of wild and privately owned bison herds in the United States stands at 500,000 individuals.

Bison Impacts and Monitoring

The Kaibab Plateau bison herd, that migrated onto the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park from House Rock Valley, has adapted to various habitats; grazing and wallowing in park meadows, stampeding through dense forests, wintering along the rim of the canyon, and occasionally venturing below the Kaibab limestone in the canyon. Concerns of ecological impacts and effects to archeological sites have increased over the years as these bison have begun to congregate around natural water sources and change their migration behaviors to stay within park boundaries for longer periods throughout the year. Park researchers and collaborators have been monitoring the impacts of this herd on the natural and cultural resources of the North Rim and are establishing a feasible reduction plan.

Bison Management

By 2025, the National Park Service will reduce the size of the overpopulated Kaibab Plateau (formerly House Rock) bison herd. Grand Canyon National Park is reducing the size to under 200 in order to protect park resources—including vegetation, water, and archeologic sites—from the impacts of the bison. Learn more about the effects of bison overpopulation on the impacts and monitoring website

U.S. Department of the Interior

15 Facts About Our National Mammal: The American Bison

The American bison was named the national mammal of the United States on May 9, 2016. This majestic animal joins the ranks of the Bald Eagle as the official symbol of our country—and much like the eagle, they’re a symbol of our American identity and one of the greatest conservation success stories of all time. 

In prehistoric times, millions of bison roamed North America—from the forests of Alaska and the grasslands of Mexico to Nevada’s Great Basin and the eastern Appalachian Mountains. Their history has been inextricably intertwined with many Indigenous communities. But by the late 1800s, there were only a few hundred bison left in the United States after European settlers pushed west, reducing the animal’s habitat and hunting the bison to near extinction. Had it not been for a few private individuals working with Tribes, states and the Department of the Interior, the bison would be extinct today. 

The Nature Conservancy

6 Furry Facts and History about the Iconic American Bison

Nestled between the Appalachian Mountains to the east and the Rocky Mountains on the west, lived an enormous herd of bison roaming across the Great Plains of central North America. It is estimated that 30 million bison were wandering the plains when Columbus landed on the eastern shores. These incredible animals were so iconic that they became a national symbol of pride for the seemingly endless resources of the newly found continent.

American Bison Bison bison

The largest land mammal in North America, adult males may stand as tall as six feet at the shoulders and weigh 1000-2000 pounds. Bison are grazers, traveling between pastures in groups ranging from family units to large herds. They feed in the morning and evening, mostly on grasses and sedges, and rest during the day, chewing cud or wallowing in mud to rid themselves of parasites.

Beef and Bison Can Help in Fight Against Climate Change

When you think of iconic natural areas in the United States, what comes to mind?  Yellowstone and the Everglades? Both are spectacular and full of life. You may not know this, but their pine and mangrove forests store an immense amount of carbon. How about the Great Plains?


American Bison
The two modern subspecies of North American bison are plains bison (Bison bison bison) and wood bison (Bison bison athabascae). Various forms of bison existed in Alaska for several hundred thousand years, and until recently were one of the most abundant large animals on the landscape. Wood bison were the last subspecies to occur in Alaska and evolved from their larger-horned Pleistocene ancestors. They lived in parts of Interior and Southcentral Alaska for several thousand years before disappearing during the last few hundred years. These animals were an important resource for native peoples who hunted them for their meat and hides.

Restoring Wood Bison in Alaska: Frequently Asked Questions

Wood bison are closely related to plains bison, and both are subspecies of the species Bison bison. Wood bison inhabited and are adapted to the northern part of North America while plains bison occurred fur- ther south. Wood bison are larger, darker, and have a squarer hump than plains bison. They have little or no chap hair on their forelegs, long straight hair slop- ing down on the forehead, and a smaller, more pointed beard. Wood bison are the largest land mammal in North America. 


Landmark Study Demonstrates Cultural, Ecological and Economic Benefits of Tribal Bison Restoration

A study published today in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution found that widespread restoration of bison to Tribal lands throughout the Northern Great Plains can help restore the prairie ecosystem while improving the long-running issue of food insecurity and food sovereignty for Native Nations and may help to mitigate adverse impacts to traditional agricultural systems due to climate change.

The Crane Trust bison (Bison bison)

The Crane Trust bison (Bison bison) were brought to the property and released into the prairie in February of 2015. Since then land management and research efforts have focused on three areas to further knowledge and better the health of these individuals…

Bison Producers of Alberta


In Canada, the demand for bison meat is increasing faster than its rate of production. With regard to bison meat, the main concern is inconsistency, in terms of both the quantity and quality available in the market. There is a general perception that bison meat is leaner but less tender than beef. So, further processing may be desirable to improve the sensory characteristics and to make bison meat more acceptable, or at least an attractive red meat alternative, to consumers. This is particularly true for under-utilized or lesser-value meat cuts (e.g., chuck and round). Injection of various salt and phosphate formulations into primal meat cuts is now routinely practiced to enhance the tenderness and juiciness of fresh meat products.

The present study was conducted to investigate the effects of sodium chloride and sodium tripolyphosphate injection on the palatability of bison top round.


The nutrient content of grain and grass-finished bison are compared in this study. Macronutrient, mineral, and vitamin content of both types of bison meat are summarized. There are minimal differences in the nutrient content of grain and grass-finished bison.


There is an expanding industry for the marketing of high- value meats from animals other than the typical domesticated species, including, but not limited to, bison, ostrich, alligator, and caiman. In this study we compared the gamma radiation resistance of a mixture of salmonellae (Salmonella dublin, S. enteritidis, S. newport, S. senftenberg, and S. typhimurium) and a mixture of Staphylococcus aureus strains (ATCC 13565, ATCC 25923, and B124) when present on ground bison, ostrich, alligator, and caiman meats at 5°C. A minimum of five doses were used to establish the D values, and the studies were replicated three times. Because the type of meat did not significantly (P < 0.05) alter the radiation resistance of salmonellae and of S. aureus only slightly in the case of ostrich meat, all of the results for each organism were combined to obtain radiation D values of 0.53 + 0.02 and 0.37 + 0.01 kGy for Salmonella spp and S. aureus, respectively. The authors conclude that both of these food-borne pathogens, if present, can be eliminated or greatly reduced in number, depending upon the level of contamination, from these meats by gamma radiation doses between 1.5 and 3.0 kGy at 5°C, the doses currently approved by the FDA and USDA for the irradiation of poultry. The authors also conclude that similar, if not identical, control of food-borne pathogens should be expected on edible meats in general, not just on those that are generically related.


This report is the culmination of a set of experiments conducted at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Lacombe Research Centre (LRC), funded through the Peace Country Bison Association, with animals supplied through cooperation with Alberta bison producers. This report was written for and intended for use by producers and extension staff. All animals in care at the Lacombe Research Centre were handled in accordance with the guidelines set forth by the Canadian Council on Animal Care.


Activity budgets and foraging behavior of yearling bison (Bison bison L.) on pasture were studied during quarterly trials between June 1994 and December 1995. Daily activity patterns were polyphasic with alternating bouts of foraging and resting activity. During winter, bison displayed 2 main daytime foraging bouts and significant nighttime foraging. During summer, phasic activity was poorly expressed due to the increased number of cycles. Total foraging time declined from summer to winter (763 ± 62 to 470 ± 32 min day) while bedding bout length increased (121 ± 13 to 276 ± 26 min day). Bison selected forage higher in crude protein (12.9 ± 0.8 vs 10.0 ± 0.8%), higher in predicted digestible energy (2.70 ± 0.09 vs 2.17 ± 0.09 Mcal kg), lower in acid detergent fiber (31.9 ± 0.9 vs 38.8 ± 0.9%), and lower in lignin (4.8 ± 0.3 vs 6.8 ± 0.3%, respectively) than forage available within grazed patches.


Plains bison (Bison bison L.) have been farmed since the late 1800s when the species was rescued from extinction (Hornaday 1890; Roe 1970; Dary 1974). Although now managed similar to domestic livestock, they still retain many of the characteristics attributed to wild ruminants. Christopherson et al. (1978) reported seasonal variation in energy expenditures for penned bison (higher spring than winter values) – variation similar to other northern wild ruminants. No studies have determined the extent of seasonal cycles of free-grazing bison.

Most work on energetic cycles of wild ruminants has measured energy expenditure rather than requirements. A more direct measure of maintenance requirements is obtained by determining the amount of feed needed to maintain body weight throughout the year (Blaxter 1989). Regression of metabolizable energy intake (ME W-0.75) on liveweight gain (g W-0.75) provides a simultaneous estimate of seasonal energy requirement for maintenance and liveweight gain (Jiang and Hudson 1992).


The following article answers the most commonly asked questions about MCF in bison. The authors are well recognized as leaders in the study of MCF. Their answers reflect the current knowledge of the disease at the time of writing.


Malignant catarrhal fever (MCF) is a viral disease of ruminants. Sheep are resistant to the disease but can act as carriers, spreading the virus to other more susceptible species. In the last few years there have an increasing number of bison that have died from the disease. It is a large problem for some herds of bison in our province.


Bison bulls fed for meat will consume a wide variety of feeds with some subtle differences observed in performance. Bulls gained faster on higher energy content feeds with lower cost per pound of gain even though higher energy feeds were more expensive. There was extreme variation in the performance of animals due to season of the year regardless of the diet. During winter, intake generally declined and gains were severely affected. Animal performance was generally similar during other seasons of the year. Some differences due to previous diet and animal age may affect performance. From a practical sense, it may be most cost effective to feed bison bulls only hay during the winter and offer high grain diets during other seasons of the year. Feed delivery system had little effect on intake or gain in this study. This on-farm feeding study was conducted with outside grant funds and yielded valuable information for bison growers.


A total of 58 bison bulls were finished for slaughter using modified dairy cattle feeding station technology (FWS) as a source for feed grains. Bison had comparable average daily grain intake (6.2, 6.6 ,4.5 ,7.32 kgd-1); average daily forage intake (5.4, 3.8, 3.5, 3.5 kgd-1); average daily gain (0.96, 0.83, 0.51, 1.03 kgd-1); and feed conversion ratios (12.2, 9.6,20.5, 10.5) to control groups (grain available in self-feeder SF) for 90 day winter feeding periods (between October and January) for 1993-1994 and 1994-1995, respectively.


Seasonal effects on the average daily gain of 275 grain finished bison bulls that entered the Bison Evaluation Unit (REV) at various dates between the fall of 1992 and the spring of 1995 were assessed. Average daily gain was higher in the spring (1.1 ± 0.04 kgd-1) than in the fall (0.706 ± 0.05 kgd-1). In addition, the average daily feed consumption per animal was greater in the spring (14.30 ± 1.15 kgd-1) than in the fall (10.64 ± 1.15 kgd-1). A warm-up period was demonstrated to be beneficial to average daily gain. Bulls that were not warmed up had an average daily gain of 0.86 ± 0.02 kgd-1. Bulls that were warmed up for a few days (<50) gained 1.1 ± 0.10 kgd-1, and bulls that were warmed up for more than 50 days had the highest average daily gain (1.5 ± 0.07 kgd-1). Mixing small groups of bulls from different herds for the purpose of filling the pen was shown to be detrimental to average daily gain. Groups of four or more gained significantly more (p<0.05) than groups of three or less, when mixed in the same pen (0.68 ± 0.03 kgd-1 vs 0.36 ± 0.4 kgd-1). Feed conversions ranged from 9.9 to 16.6, but there was no statistically significant difference in total feed conversion between the spring and fall seasons. These results suggest that there is a slight advantage in grain finishing bison in feedlot in the spring rather than the fall season.


Musca autumnalis De Geer (Diptera: Muscidae) was a pest of bison at the National Bison Range, Moiese, Mont.. in 1966 and 1967, where flies occurred also around the eyes of deer, antelope, and horses. In 167 adults were reared and the immature stages were from bison droppings obtained at the Range.


Bison (Bison bison) and Cattle (Bos taurus), though closely related are ecologically different so we hypothesized that they would differ in prevalence of disease-causing organisms. We compared internal parasites of sympatric Bison and Cattle in the Henry Mountains, Utah by screening feces for parasites. We identified five taxa of parasites (Eimeria bovis, E.zuernii, Fasciola hepatica, order Strongylida. Trichuris; spp.). Prevalences differed between Bison and Cattle, especially those parasites associated with water. Likely causes are differences in host suitability and ecological differences between Bison and Cattle that affected the probability of transmission.


A link between dental abnormalities and loss of genetic variation has been reported for unconfined populations of American bison Bison bison (Linnaeus, 1758) but not for captive populations. From a zoo herd with a small founder population and likely history of inbreeding, we report the first recorded occurrence of dental abnormalities in captive bison and the first case of supernumerary second premolars in bison.


Five age classes of male bison and four age classes of female bison can be recognized in the field on the basis of horn growth. Tooth eruption and replacement permit -the recognition of five age classes separated by 1 year ( 0-4 years inclusive) .Tooth wear permits recognition of an additional three age classes, designated “young adult,” “adult,” and “aged,” which coyer the remainder of the life span of the animals.


A urinary collection device is described for use in metabolism studies on female bison (Bison bison) and cattle. Separating urine from feces, and collecting all urine produced by female animals in metabolism stalls present difficulties. Catheters are usually used on animals in confinement, but often with varying degrees of success. Thus, an external device designed to divert urine into collection receptacles was developed. The urine collection apparatus was used successfully in six 8-day metabolism trials con- ducted during 1991 and 1992.


The physiological mechanisms that control reproductive success of wild bison (Bison bison) are not known, and the relatively small scattered herds prevent intensive study. Environmental, demographic, and physiological factors all play major interrelated roles in reproductive self-regulation. Thus, we validated the use of urinary and fecal steroid analysis as a means of detecting ovulation and pregnancy in uncaptured free-roaming ungulates, and identified the physiologic mechanisms that govern reproductive success in wild bison. Free-roaming bison of 2 subpopulations of the Yellowstone National Park herd were observed during 1989-91.


American bison; yak, Scottish Highland and Hereford calves were used in a comparative study of metabolic responses to temperature or 20, 0 and -30(C. Metabolic rates were lowest in the bison, highest in the Herefords and intermediate in the Highland and yak. Critical temperatures and thermal insulations as calculated from metabolic responses to three ambient temperatures suggested that the bison were most tolerant to cold and that the Herefords were least tolerant. Highland and yak were intermediate and comparable in this regard.


We summarized changes in the distribution and abundance of bison (Bison bison) in Wood Buffalo National Park from 1971 to 1998. Based on annual aerial counts, a significant decline in bison abundance has occurred from approximately 11,000 animals in 1971 to 2,300 animals in 1998. The decline occurred south of the Peace River, which includes the Peace-Athabasca Delta. Cow and calf counts south of the Peace River from 1989 to 1996 indicated low calf production and very low yearling survival. It is not clear what factors are responsible for the decline. We suggest that long-term, multi-disciplinary research is required to further understand the changing dynamics within the Wood Buffalo National Park ecosystem.


During the past 20 years Bison (Bison bison athabascae) numbers have increased and Moose (Alces alces) numbers appear to have decreased within the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary. In adjacent peripheral areas near Mink Lake Moose densities were twice that in the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary. Wolf (Canis lupus)activity was greater in the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary than in the Mink Lake area. Although Bison made up a larger proportion of the Wolf diet (based upon scat analysis) in the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary than in the Mink Lake area, Moose made up a significantly greater (P<o.oo1) proportion=”” of=”” the=”” wolf=”” diet=”” than=”” expected=”” given=”” availability=”” prey=”” biomass=”” in=”” both=”” mackenzie=”” bison=”” sanctuary=”” and=”” mink=”” lake=”” areas.=”” that=”” moose=”” made=”” up=”” a=”” similar=”” areas,=”” there=”” was=”” two-fold=”” difference=”” densities=”” between=”” area,=”” predation=”” may=”” be=”” destabilizing=”” exacerbating=”” decline=”” numbers.<=”” p=””>


The food habits of the Farewell, Alaska, bison (Bison bison) herd were studied by collecting fresh fecal samples on summer and fall range. The mean shrub content of the summer samples was 94.2%. The fall shrub component varied, with shrubs making up most of the diet in the areas where grasses and sedges were scarce.

Food habits of several bison herds have been described or alluded to (Soper 1941, Peden 1976, Reynolds et al. 1978, Cairns and Telfer 1980, Van Vuren and Bray 1983). Campbell and Hinkes (1983) have described the winter food habits and habitat use of the Farewell, Alaska, bison herd. These authors indicate that free-roaming American bison are grazing animals whose mainstay is a wide variety of grasses and sedges. Our study of the Farewell herd indicates shrubs, especially willow (Salix spp.) may be important in the diet during summer and fall.


This research determined the preliminary response of sandhills prairie to spring and summer prescribed burns, and their interaction with Bison (Bison Bison)grazing. Changes in species composition and standing crop were determined for paired (caged/uncaged) plots established in burned and unburned areas during the 1991 and 1992 growing seasons. End of season standing crop of both rhizomatous grasses and bunchgrasses was increased by spring burning on sands range sites. Summer burning did not affect rhizomatous grass standing crop, but dramatically reduced bunchgrass standing crop. One burned areas, bison grazing reduced bunchgrass standing crop by 56%, while reducing rhizomatous grass standing crop by only 18%. Forbs generally appeared unaffected by Bison grazing and were affected variously by burning. The current bunchgrass composition of Nebraska Sandhills prairie appears dependent on fire exclusion. With fire, a replacement of bunchgrass with rhizomatous grasses may increase available forage, but also increases the risk of wind erosion, particularly on choppy sands range sites.


In animals that defer reproduction until after physiological maturity because of competition by older individuals, one would expect that individuals reproduce earlier when competition decreases. We investigated nine behaviours relevant to reproduction in subadult wood bison males in captivity where mature males have been experimentally removed and compared them to males in a control and a free ranging population. Free-ranging males fed less and walked more with increasing age. Mature males had more back-fat than subadults and they lost most of their fat during the rut. In the captive population, subadults in absence of mature males tended to feed less and were involved in more sexual and aggressive interactions than subadults in a control situation. They significantly increased feeding time from rut to late-rut, while in the control situation neither subadults nor mature males changed. However, the population’s age-structure did not affect the pattern of subadults associating with cows, nor did it affect the length of tending bouts by subadults. Our results suggest that subadults can alter some reproductive behaviours depending on the social environment, but without taking on the role of mature males. The finding that some behaviours vary with the social environment while others do not has two implications for studies on reproductive behaviour: (i) researchers are advised to consider potential effects of the age-structure on observed behaviour. and (ii) the kinds of behaviours chosen to study should be considered relative to the potential effects of the age-structure.


Widespread access to bison of breeding age in the recent decade has created an alternative to cattle in grassland natural area management. Cattle and bison are considered generalist foragers, yet, differences in food habits indicate that cattle are more selective for than bison (Peden et al. 1974). During rut, investment in social interactions should be greater for bison than cattle and might be expected to influence foraging behavior. Foraging by either herbivore may directly influence ecosystem structure and interactions in the biotic community (Ellis et al. 1976).

The challenges facing natural area managers often include recognizing ecological disturbances which are essential (i.e., fire, herbivory) and learning how to implement such processes within fragmented natural landscapes (Steuter et al. 1990). In a natural area context, are bison and cattle analogous herbivores? The paper is a condensation of an earlier report by Plumb and Dodd (1993) and discusses data collected during 1985 to 1987 on a mixed-grass prairie owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy in north-central South Dakota.


Calving rates among mature female American bison range from <50% in the Slave River lowlands in the Northwest Territories (Van Camp and Calef 1987) and 52% in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming (Meagher 1973), to 66.9% in the Wichita Mountains, Oklahoma (Halloran 1968), 78.4% for Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, Nebraska, and Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota (Haugen 1974), and 88.2% for the National Bison Range, Montana (Rutberg 1986). Meagher (1973) suggested that a preponderance of aged females could reduce calving rates. Halloran (1968) concluded that calving rates in the Wichita Mountains were influenced by a tendency of individual females to produce calves in alternate years, a pattern that he attributed to superior condition of nonlactating females. Rutberg (1986) reported that 25 of 29 nonlactating females at the National Bison Range carried male fetuses, compared with 26 of 53 male fetuses in lactating females. He argued that this difference supported the Trivers-Willard Hypothesis that predicts that females in good condition produce larger proportions of male offspring than do females in poorer condition (Trivers and Willard 1973).


Two new anesthetic combinations are being used to safely immobilize bison. This article briefly describes the combinations and their antidotes as they are used by Nigel Caulkett from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan.


Blood samples were obtained from 20 bison (Bison bison) from a ranch in northern lower Michigan, as well as from 20 free-ranging bison of the same sex and similar age from the Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Hematologic and serum biochemical values were determined. The values were comparable in both groups, except for those for BUN, aspartate transaminase, and phosphorus, which were significantly (P < 0.001) higher in the ranched bison than in the free-ranging bison. These differences were attributed to nutritional effects. Impact of age on blood characteristics was assessed in the ranched bison only by comparing values from calves weighing less than 185 kg with those from bison weighing more than 185 kg. Calves had significantly (P < 0.001) higher values for phosphorus and RBC counts and lower total protein values than adults. Adult bison had higher eosinophil and neutrophil counts with lower numbers of lymphocytes, suggestive of a stress leukogram, whereas calves had the typical bovine neutrophil:lymphocyte ratio.

American bison (Bison bison) or buffalo are gaining popularity as a food animal, largely as a result of owners’ claims that bison meat has less fat and cholesterol and is higher in protein and thiamine than beef. The increased demand by health-conscious Americans for this meat has resulted in rapidly increasing prices over the past 3 years at many of the buffalo sales in the United States and sparked a revival of interest in raising this once nearly extinct species.


Gender differences in carcass and meat quality are known to exist in cattle and other domestic livestock, however no information is presently available regarding potential gender differences in bison. To determine if differences exist which may impact the bison industry, twenty head of bison (10 bulls and 10 heifers) from the Millennium Bison Ranch (High Level, AB) were finished to market weight on the same ration at the Long-Term Grazing Facility at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Dominion Research Farm in Fort Vermilion, AB. Following slaughter at the Lacombe Research Centre, official grades, Blue Tag colour, marbling and backfat assessments, commercial lean yield dissections, meat quality, proximate analyses, sensory analyses and retail display characteristics were determined. At slaughter bison heifers had significantly lighter live weights, a higher dressing percentage, smaller rib-eye areas and greater backfat depth compared to bison bulls. Both bison bulls and heifers had very little visible marbling fat at the grade site. Bison bulls had significantly higher total saleable yields than bison heifers. On a weight basis, bison bulls yielded 10 kg more saleable yield in the forequarter and approximately 7 kg more saleable yield in the hindquarter, with bison bulls yielding a higher proportion of hump, shoulder and brisket than heifers. In the hindquarter, bison heifers yielded a higher proportion of tenderloin than bison bulls. There were no significant differences in objective meat colour, shear force or sensory characteristics between bison bulls and bison heifers. However, heifers had significantly greater amounts of intramuscular fat and significantly lower moisture content than bulls. Meat from both bison bulls and heifers had a limited shelf life with only 10% of retail steaks from bulls, and 0% of retail steaks from heifers rated as acceptable after 3 d of retail display due to the rapid development of a brown colour. This has been observed previously in retail display and does not appear to be related to microbial spoilage. Further work should be conducted to determine the reason for the rapid loss in fresh meat colour stability in bison meat and to develop means of prevention.


A committee of the Bison Research and Development Working Group (BRADWG) met in Edmonton AB on April 23, 1999. The strategic plan development committee was struck at the March 29, 1999 regular meeting of BRADWG in a manner to provide for a broad representation of the bison industry. The committee was charged with the task of finalizing a Strategic Plan for the immediate and long- term research and development of the Alberta (and if appropriate, the Canadian) bison industry. The Plan was to include statements regarding the current position of the industry, identification of current research and development needs and a prioritization of those needs. The Strategic Plan was to be prepared in a manner that industry groups, governmental agencies and researchers could utilize it in their activities to support the development of the bison industry. Version 4.0 of the Strategic Plan was accepted by the Directors of the Canadian Bison Association on June 25, 1999, as the Strategic Plan for Research and Development of the Canadian Bison industry.

Subsequently, BRADWG has only met to review the Strategic Plan. It met on December 12, 2001 at the Bison Centre of Excellence to review and update research priorities and to complete the Bison 2000 document (1st Edition). BRADWG met again June 9, 2003 for further revisions and to develop a revised (2nd) edition.

Plains Anthropologist

Plains Anthropologist is published quarterly by the Plains Anthropological Society. It publishes original papers on the anthropology of the Great Plains and adjacent areas of North America.


Reanalysis of bison lower dentary assemblages from the Scoggin site (ca. 4540 BP), Cordero Mine site (ca. 3520 BP), and Rourke site (ca. 2500-1700 BP), offers new information concerning the seasonality of Plains Archaic bison utilization.

The Fat of the Land: White Rock Phase Bison Hunting and Grease Production

A focal bison hunting economy is evident for the White Rock phase, a Late Prehistoric Oneota culture of the Central Plains. This adaptation contrasts with the more generalized animal procurement of the preceding Central Plains tradition and is similar to that of regional protohistoric cultures, such as the Lower Loup phase. 

A Late Archaic Bison Processing Event in the Texas Panhandle

Block excavations total 115 m² at a 1 m-deep buried occupation surface at the Sanders site, where a single bison processing event probably occurred in March, about 1700-1800 BP. The Late Archaic material assemblage consisted of 25,000 pieces of bone splinters, chipped stone hunting and processing tools, a set of unique bone gaming pieces, and a single cord-marked body sherd.

A Geoarchaeological Assessment Of Bison Kill Site Preservation In The Little Missouri Badlands

This paper investigates the relationship between geomorphic processes and the preservation and interpretation of bison procurement localities in the Little Missouri Badlands of western North Dakota. Known archaeological data pertaining to bison procurement are examined within the context of the late Quaternary stratigraphic and geomorphic history of the badlands. Viewed from a geoarchaeological context, the spatial and temporal distributions of bison kill sites appear to be products of the geomorphic history of those landforms most frequently used for bison procurement. These landforms tend to be highly dynamic and therefore not suitable for archaeological site preservation on broad temporal and spatial scales.

Getting Over the Hump: Some Concluding Remarks on Southern Plains Bison Procurement/Utilization Studies

Familiarity breeds contempt. A little know- edge is a dangerous thing. Clichés, to be sure, but there are no more appropriate phrases to describe the traditional concepts of human-bison interac- tion in Southern Plains prehistory. Everyone knows that bison were an important resource for prehistoric and historic Native Americans. What
more could we possibly need to know? The answer is, quite simply, “a lot.”

Relative Abundance of Bison, Elk, and Pronghorn on the Southern Plains, 1806-1857

We searched diaries of travels over the Southern Plains from 1806-1857 for reports ofbison, elk, and pronghorn. From these accounts we obtained indexes of abundance by dividing the number of days in which the animals were observed by the total number of days spent by the expeditions in each of the three prairie biomes. Organizedby historical period and biome type, results show that populations of these ungulates were unstable even during the first half of the nineteenth century. The most stable populations throughout the survey period were bison on mixed-grass prairies. Bison and elk disappeared from tall-grass regions by 1833. Bison were exceptionally numerous on short-grass prairies prior to 1821 but dropped off sharply thereafter. Elk abundance was highest on tall-grass prairies during the earliest historical periods. Pronghorn were most abundant on short-grass prairies during 1806-1820 and again during the 1850s, and most abundant on mixed-grass prairies between those periods. Human influences were likely responsible for the paucity of bison on tall-grass prairies. The persistence of all three species on mixed-grass prairies was influenced by that biome’s distance from centers of human populations encroaching from both east and west.


The remains of at least ten bison—three adult females, five juveniles, and two calves—were shallowly buried in lacustrine clays at the base of a large truncated dune encircling the northern perimeter of Big Lake, the largest saline lake in Texas. Radiocarbon assay of sediments and bone apatite, and the heavily ground base of a straight-sided Late Paleoindian dart point, date the kill to approximately 8000 radiocarbon years ago. 

Reinvestigation of the Perry Ranch Plainview Bison Bonebed, Southwestern Oklahoma

Reinvestigation of the Perry Ranch site (34JK81) inJackson County, Oklahoma was conducted during the summers of 1989 and 1990. The goals were to relocate the site, place a permanent datum, evaluate the possibility of additional deposits, and to collect bone samples for chemical analysis and possible dating. In addition, the boneassemblagefrom the 1974 excavation was restudied to facilitate taphonomic analysis, a season of death estimate, and detailed comparison with other bison bonebed assemblages. Bone chemistry indicates that the original radiocarbon date on bone is not a reliable measure of the age of the Perry Ranch deposit. The problem of whether Plainview or Golandrina points are represented is reconsidered and the original assessment-that the points compare mostfavorably with thosefrom the Plainview type site-is supported. The MNI and season of death have also been reassessed. The animals died in winter, perhaps mid-January, based on tooth eruption and wear comparison with modern bison. A minimum of two animals was identified. Theformational history of the deposit based on bone condition and element representation is reviewed. The possibility remains that there are additional significant deposits at the Perry Ranch site.

The Cooper Site: a Stratified Folsom Bison Kill in Oklahoma

Two seasons of fieldwork at the Cooper site, a stratified Folsom-age bison kill in northwestern Oklahoma, yielded extensive bone and lithic materials. The three kill deposits provide the opportunity to study hunting and butchering practices as revealed by stone tools and bone alteration. This preliminary description of the excavations and recovered materials provides a general overview of the site and discusses the potential it holds to further our understanding of Folsom liftways.

The Waugh Site: a Folsom-Age Bison Bonebed in Northwestern Oklahoma

The Waugh site (34HP42) was discovered in January, 1991 in Harper County, Oklahoma as a concentration of bison bones eroding from a stream margin. A Folsom projectile pointwasfoundwith the bones. Professional excavation began in 1991 and continued in 1992 and 1993. In 1992, testing 100m to the south of the bone bed revealed a hearth feature which provided two radiocarbon dates of ca. 10,390 years BP. This paper summarizes the data collectedfrom the faunal remains pertaining to minimum number of individuals, skeletal element frequency, sex composition, and site formation processes.

Late Quaternary Bison Utilization at Lubbock Lake:1 Southern High Plains of Texas

The history of bison utilization at the Lubbock Lake Landmark is a long one, spanning thousands of years and many cultures. Bison kill/butchering locales are known for the Paleoindian through Middle Archaic periods, when small cow/calf herds were butchered around or near the waterway in the valley axis. Game animal processing stations containing modern bison remains are common from the Late Archaic through Historic periods, also centered along the waterway. These two modes of the procurement pattern represent primary butchering activities (locales and secondary activities (stations). The basic butchering tool kit appears similar through time, composed primarily of amorphous lithic flake tools and bone expediency tools. The role of bison in the subsistence base varied through time, ranging from a component of a broad-based, meat-related subsistence, to a targeted large-game animal, to a component of a mixed meat-plant subsistence. The repeated use of Lubbock Lake through time and available seasonality data indicate the Landmark to have been a well-known location within a seasonal round of activities regardless of social organization or climatic regime. The Lubbock Lake record acts as the regional model, but additional research is needed to assess the model and reshape it where necessary.


Long renowned for their clues to the presence and predatory abilities of North America’s earliest humans, Southern Plains sites with bison remains have provided vertebrate paleontologists with food for thought for nearly a century. Bison skulls from Texas, New Mexico, and Kansas figured prominently in early taxonomic schemes, ideas on bison evolution, and the chronology of geological deposits before radiocarbon dating. Now, in addition toinnumerable finds of isolated cranial parts, bison remains are reported for over 30 non archaeological sites from southwestern Kansas to southern Texas. A radiocarbon-dated chronology is slowly developing for these paleontological finds, and, on this basis, bisona remains appear to be nonexistent in deposits older than 50,000 yearsBP. Moreover, most localities older than 20,000 years BP yield more remains of herbivores other than bison. Although several competing models ofNorthAmerican bison evolution are currently in vogue, Southern Plains finds demonstrate that serious problems hinder full acceptance of any model. These problems include small sample sizes, poor understanding of age and sex differences within nominal species, inadequate dating of most faunal localities, and (most of all) identification errors resulting from misinterpretation of nomenclature. As a result, many identifications of bison species published in the last 20 years are suspect.

Bison Processing at the Rush Site, 41TG346, and Evidence for Pemmican Production in the Southern Plains

A discrete, 375-year-old, late fall bison processing event of the Toyah phase in west central Texas yielded quantities of cultural materials, includingfragmented bison bones. The estimated number of bison procured, ca.50 animals, plus the association of at least three point types (Perdiz, Garza, and Harrell) and two ceramic styles imply a communal bison procurement event of a type not previously recognized on the Southern Plains. This single occupation produced a stone tool assemblage and bone breakage pattern emphasizing smashing of large limb elements for marrow and grease extraction. The intensively burned hearths, thousands of bone fragments less than 3 em long, and presence of ceramic vessels reflect the production oflarge quantities ofbone grease. Projected volumes of meat imply pemmican production. Comparison with other excavated and reported sites in Texas indicates this bone processing technique and pemmican production is restricted in time and space.

Where’s The Cliff?: Late Archaic Bison Kills in the Southern Plains

Current research at western Oklahoma’s Certain site (34BK46) has substantially increased our knowledge ofLate Archaic bison hunting in the Southern Plains. Comparison with several other kill sites in the Texas Panhandle shows a broad, regional pattern. Small to moderate numbers of bison were trapped in arroyos, killed, and butchered. Butchering patterns and carcass utilization vary in detail, but generally show less than full use of whatwas available. Seasonality data are tentative, but seem to show some variability as to timing of the kills, witha possible preference for late fall/early winter.

Adjusting Our Perceptions: Historical and Archaeological Evidence of Winter on the Plains of Western Canada

Current research at western Oklahoma’s Certain site (34BK46) has substantially increased our knowledge ofLate Archaic bison hunting in the Southern Plains. Comparison with several other kill sites in the Texas Panhandle shows a broad, regional pattern. Small to moderate numbers of bison were trapped in arroyos, killed, and butchered. Butchering patterns and carcass utilization vary in detail, but generally show less than full use of whatwas available. Seasonality data are tentative, but seem to show some variability as to timing of the kills, witha possible preference for late fall/early winter.

Other Articles of Interest

The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture COOPER SITE.

The Cooper Site in northwestern Oklahoma was the scene of three large, Folsom-age (circa 10,500 years ago) bison kills in a single gully. The bison were herded into a dead-end arroyo. Hunters, poised on the gully rim above the herd, killed the animals with spears tipped with finely crafted Folsom points. Upon completion of the kill, the hunters entered the arroyo and proceeded to butcher the animals by filleting the meat from the hump and front quarters of each animal.

Estimating probabilities of active brucellosis infection in Yellowstone bison through quantitative serology and tissue culture

Disease management along the boundaries of wildlife reserves is a growing conservation prob- lem worldwide, as infected wildlife can migrate outside protected areas and pose a threat to live- stock and human health. The bison Bison bison population in Yellowstone National Park has long been infected with Brucella abortus, but culling of Yellowstone bison to prevent transmission to cat- tle has been ineffective at reducing brucellosis infection. This management strategy is negatively affecting long-term bison conservation because of difficulties in diagnosing actively infected animals.

American Bison

IUCN Status Survey and Conservation Guidelines 2010

Bringing bison back to North America

Five hundred years ago, tens of millions of American bison roamed free on the plains of North America, from Alaska to northern Mexico. Now the American bison – which includes both plains and wood bison – is listed as Near Threatened on IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species™. As of 2008, there were approximately 400,000 bison in commercial herds in North America, some 93 percent of the continental population. But little progress has been made in recent decades to increase the number of animals in conservation herds, which are managed carefully for their genetic diversity and ecological roles. In 2008, there were 61 plains bison conservation herds in North America containing about 20,500 animals, and 11 conservation herds of wood bison, containing nearly 11,000 animals.

Applying an ecosystem approach to brucellosis control: can an old conflict between wildlife and agriculture be successfully managed?

Brucellosis is a hotly debated topic in the western United States. For decades, this disease has pitted conserva- tionists against ranchers, as well as against federal and state government agencies, particularly in Montana and Wyoming. Bison and elk are the primary wildlife disease reservoirs, and cattle the primary species of agricul- tural concern. Here, we briefly summarize the disease’s etiology and ecology in wildlife and discuss recent devel- opments in the sociopolitical landscape and in scientific research that could result in improved management. Applying some key principles of ecosystem management is crucial to improving brucellosis control in wildlife.


This Record of Decision is the culmination of a planning process in excess of ten years regarding the management of bison that leave Yellowstone National Park and enter the Gallatin National Forest and private lands within the State of Montana. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was a product of the cooperative efforts of the Department of the Interior (National Park Service), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Forest Service and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service), and the State of Montana (Department of Livestock and Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks). The Final EIS was a product of the cooperative efforts of the Department of the Interior (National Park Service) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S. Forest Service and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service). The State of Montana has issued a separate final EIS under Montana law and has adopted and incorporated by reference the federal agencies’ final EIS