Monday, March 11, 2013


Several years ago the South Dakota Ornithologists’ Union and the North Dakota Birding Society met near Theodore Roosevelt National Park in southwestern North Dakota. As is the case in most state bird organization meetings, the birding and the fellowship were excellent.

Various factors, including intentional and unintentional over-hunting, draught, and conversion of prairie to agricultural land, combined, by 1894, to nearly cause the extinction of North American Bison (Hämäläinen 2009). In that year, the United States initiated protection of the species. Today more than 500,000 Bison survive—the descendants of several private, small herds. Only some 15000 are considered “wild,” which is to say not confined primarily by fencing (Wikipedia). In 1956, Bison from Nebraska were introduced to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Now between 300 and 700 animals roam the park.

Bison are among the most dangerous animals in western national parks. They can charge at speeds up to 40 mph, and will do so if they feel provoked. At Theodore Roosevelt National Park, visitors are warned that “if the tail is straight up in the air, a charge may be imminent.” At Yellowstone National Park between 1980 and 1999, more than three times as many people were injured by Bison than by bears (79 vs. 24). Of those injured, one was killed by a Bison and three by bear (Wikipedia). When we came upon the Bison in the lower photo, we gave it wide berth and were relieved to see its tail not sticking straight up!

1 comment:

  1. They probably have a right to be irritated. Over 60 million bison were killed for their tongues and hides. The vast majority of the slaughter was done by people who fled Europe because of religious persecution. So much for the settlers and the good deeds. I love bison and wrote a book about them and the Indians. A one of a kind handwritten book that I illustrated too.