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Photo Credit: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Bison bison (Linnaeus)
DESCRIPTION: Largest (adult length =210-380 cm [80-150 in.]; weight=310-900 kg [700-2,000 lb.]) native terrestrial mammal in
DISTRIBUTION: Once abundant and widespread from
HABITAT: A variety of mixed types associated with woodlands and grasslands. Relied on forested areas for shade and escape from insects pests, disturbances, and severe weather, but used open habitats for grazing. Undertook annual migrations, apparently seeking suitable grazing and weather conditions (Choate et al. 1994).
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: Mostly diurnal, with several grazing periods interspersed with rest and rumination. Breeding season is June-October. Females tend to be seasonally polyestrous, with a cycle lasting about three weeks. Some females conceive as yearlings, but most breed first at two to four years old. Males reach sexual maturity at two to three years. Gestation is about 285 days, and results in birth of one calf (rarely twins) weighing 15-25 kilograms (30-60 pounds). Calves usually are reddish tan, becoming the dark-brown color of adults at about four months. Following birth, calves stand in about 10 minutes and first nurse in about 30 minutes; they begin grazing and drinking water in five to seven days, but may nurse for seven to eight months. Usual lifespan is about 12-15 years; some survive for more than 20 years, and a few as long as 40 years. Bison graze throughout the year, primarily on grasses and sedges. Harbor a variety of endoparasites and ectoparasites, and gregarious nature enhances spread of parasites and diseases among animals of all ages (McHugh 1958, Reynolds et al. 1982, Meagher 1986, Choate et al. 1994).
BASIS FOR STATUS CLASSIFICATION: Probably extirpated from