America’s National Mammal
Did you know that the American Bison was named the National Mammal of the U.S. These amazing animals are very much a part of the history of the U.S. They are also wonderful creatures to observe in the wild.
Where Do The Buffalo Roam?
Though captive bison can be found in many places the best places to observe their natural behaviors is in one of the National Refuges or Parks where they are protected and allowed to roam freely through the plains and mountainsides. I have shown some pictures of the buffalo in an earlier blog about a trip to Yellowstone National Park, but this year we found a little lesser known place where you can view these majestic animals along with much other wildlife. This place is known as the National Bison Range and is located in the Western part of Montana. It covers about 19,00 acres with various ecosystems and a large variety of plant and animal species.
The Safest Way to View Them Is In Your Car!
One of the first things you will find out as you enter the refuge is the rule “Stay in your car!” There are only a couple places where you can get out to walk a short distance. One is at the top of the mountain. It’s a beautiful view of the area. The reason for this rule is your safety and that of the animals. After all, it is a refuge, a sanctuary for wildlife. By staying in your car you can get some incredible photographs of these animals. There are also Grizzly Bears in the refuge!
One of the Most Dangerous Animals in the U.S.
Interestingly, the buffalo is considered one of the most dangerous animals in the United States. Records kept in Yellowstone National Park register about three to one the injuries caused by buffalo vs bear within the park. People not willing to abide by the rules often find out the hard way why the rule is established! If you were to encounter a buffalo in the wild and were not in your car, you could actually watch for the animal’s warning signs. A tail wagging and hanging down indicates the animal is peaceful. If that tail rises, you better beware! A charge is about to begin. Best move away but don’t run!
Close Up and Personal:
As you can see from these photos, you can easily capture nice photographs of these animals while remaining in the safety of your car. My wife actually made a video of the animals crossing the road in front of us. Many mothers and calves crossed the road right where we could see them very clearly.
Did you know the early settlers often called the baby calves of buffalo “red dogs”? This is because the babies have a reddish brown coloration for the first 3 months of their lives. Mothers are quite protective of their young and the calves stay close by their mothers for protection. Guess what enemies the buffalo face?: Wolves and Grizzly Bears.
Babies can stay with their mothers from 7 to 18 months. If mothers become pregnant that time is reduced. Buffalo mature at about 3 – 4 years of age. Birth order can be significant in establishing dominance. Those born first have a more likely chance of claiming dominance because of their size difference.
The Males Go Off and Leave the Females and Young
At about three years of age the male buffalo go off on their own. The only time they spend time with the females is during the mating season. Males either live alone or gather in Bachelor Herds. We saw some loners around the park. They are much larger than the females.
Males can weigh from 900 to 2,000 lbs. Females to 1,091. And adult can be up to 7 to 11.5 ft. in length. Their shoulder height can be from 60 to 72 inches.
Other Interesting Buffalo Facts:
Buffalo once ranged in massive herds. They were very important to the Native Americans who used every part of the animals for food and clothing and other items.
Buffalo were almost driven to extinction due to over hunting by the early European settlers. Their hides were sold and many times the majority of the animals were just left to rot and decay.
Buffalo were often killed to drive out the Indian populations that depended on them.
Buffalo were the “trailblazers” for many of our railroad systems. Their paths were expanded to carry the trains across the country and well as provide highways through the mountains and plains.
“Horning” is a practice used by buffalo to repel insects. They scrape their horns against aromatic trees like cedar and pine to cover their bodies with odor that repels insects. This is especially practiced in the fall of the year when insect pest are most prevalent.
Buffalo communicate with grunting sounds. The male bulls can bellow with sounds that can be heard 3 miles away!
The heads of Buffalo are uniquely designed for use as a snow plow in the winter.
Buffalo usually live to the age of 15 in the wild and can live much longer in captivity.
Buffalo usually travel about 2 miles a day feeding. In this way they can mow down the grasses and allow them to regrow for their future visits.
Buffalo meat is highly desired and deemed even better than beef meat. It is higher in protein, lower in fat and cholesterol than beef. For this reason buffalo are often raised for commercial harvest. Some of those raised for meat reach the weight of 3,801 lbs.
Buffalo horns are curved upward and are about 2 ft. long.
In the Winter, Buffalo grow a winter coat. In the Springtime these are shed or rubbed off on rocks and trees trunks. They look very shaggy at this time.
Mating usually occurs between July to September of the year. Usually only one calf is born by each mother which can stand up and walk within 30 minutes of birth.
At one time over 50 Million buffalo roamed in North America. In 1890 there were only about 300 left. Fortunately they became a protected species and have since been managed by the Department of Fish and Game.
Buffalo wallow in the dust and mud to help remove and control parasites.
Many cattle farmers are concerned with Buffalo crossing over into their range land. Buffalo can carry a disease called brucellosis which causes developing calves to die before birth. Ironically, this disease first arrived via the cattle introduced into the native regions harboring the buffalo.
Buffalo can move very quickly! They have been clocked at 40 miles an hour. They can also jump vertically a 6 ft. fence.
The scientific name of the Buffalo you see in this blog post is Bison bison.
Buffalo Point to Their Creator:
As I have viewed and researched these animals, the more I learn, the more I see God’s handiwork on display. God created these animals with a purpose. Interestingly, it is often man’s sinfulness that leads to the disharmony in Creation. Because of man’s greed and lack of responsibility, many types of animals have been threatened or even have gone extinct! It is important as wise stewards of His Creation to remember the Dominion Mandate given to man by God. We are to oversee and care for His Creation not abuse it. This can start right where you live and where you go. Clean up after yourself and respect the wildlife. Let’s make sure these and other creatures will remain for future generations to enjoy because of our stewardship.
“Oh, You can’t roller-skate in a buffalo heard. But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to!” These are the words of a fun song we sang as a kid.
Why Not Learn More About the Buffalo?:
By doing a little research you can learn how the buffalo have impacted the history of the United States. Some things to research are:
How many U.S. coins have the image of a Buffalo on them?
How did the Native Americans use the various parts of these animals to create shelter, clothing, food and other personal items?
How did the railroad industry affect the Buffalo?
What was the significance of a “White Buffalo” (Albino) to the Native American?
How many places have the word “Buffalo” in their names?
For how many dollars was a Buffalo hide sold?