The Plains Bison of today are making a welcome comeback. There are over 500,000 bison alive today from Mexico to Canada. Bison can be found in all fifty states of the union. Over 95% of the bison alive today are found on private ranches raised for breeding stock, meat and by-products.
Bison or as they are also known, American Buffalo, have long been a symbol of the old American west. A symbol representing power, freedom and the spirituality of nature. You can find bison as team mascots, on a ten-dollar bill, stamps, a nickel, two state seals, state quarters and a 2000 & 2003 special silver dollar U.S. mint coin.
There are three types of bison alive today: Plains - Woods - Wisent. The plains bison is found in North America, the woods bison is found in Canada and the Wisent is found in Europe. The bison alive today developed during the last ice age and made their way to North America where they could be found from the East Coast to the West Coast. The Native Americans of the west had a special relationship with the bison herds, but most Native Americans utilized the bison.
It not really known how many bison were alive before Europeans arrived as there were no accurate counts, but scientists estimate the herds to have been between thirty and sixty million. Decimation of the bison started with disease from domesticated animals and then the unchecked slaughter of bison in the last half of the 18th century. As people moved west the bison populations declined until there were no bison left east of the Mississippi and as people headed to the new frontier further west the populations were decimated. Bison were considered undesirable because of their wild tendencies and their awesome power. What could have turned into another dodo bird, instead became a success story due to several individuals who made an effort to preserve and protect the remaining animals. Many of the remaining animals left in the wild were collected and put on either private ranches, zoos or on preserves. Many of those preserves have turn into national or state parks where the public can view bison. Bison are making a comeback on private ranches and on reservations across North America. There are twice as many buffalo today then there was just twenty years ago.