American bison becomes first national mammal

Bison graze on Montana’s National Bison Range. ©Ryan Hagerty

On Monday, May 9, President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act into law, making the American bison (Bison bison bison) the first national mammal of the United States. Millions of these massive — albeit extremely agile and fast — animals once roamed North America; however, by the late 1800s, hunting and habitat loss pushed them to the edge of extinction. Individuals worked with states, tribes and the Interior Department to restore bison — commonly referred to as buffalo — to their current status. Today, the U.S. Department of Interior leads the bison conservation effort and manages roughly 10,000 bison across 12 states. Bison also serve an integral role in tribal culture and, since the early 1990s, the Inter Tribal Buffalo Council has collaborated with the National Park Service to transfer bison from national park to tribal lands.

Go to the DOI website for 15 facts about American bison.