Bison In California: Everything You Need To Know About Them

Last Updated on September 14, 2023 by Amin Tawar

Bison In California

California, known as the Golden State, is the most important place, in terms of its amazing biological diversity and economy. Due to its north-to-south arrangement, the state contains a massive variety of different ecosystems and climates. 

But have ever wondered if the state is home to the American Bison? 

Below In this article, I’ve explained everything you need to know about the American Bison in California.

Are There Bison In California?

Yes, there is a small group of bison in California. Twenty-two miles from the shore of L.A., on a remote island in southwestern California, on an hour-long boat ride from the shores of L.A., there lives a herd of introduced American bison from the Great Plains. 

These bison are now very quite popular among tourists and a few buildings have even painted them. Over the years, the population of bison in the herd increased to over 600 on Catalina Island.

Where To See Bison In California?

You can also see these creatures if you go out hiking on the island. But the best way to see them: You can see bison within Catalina Island’s interior while touring, driving, biking, or hiking. 

The Catalina Island Conservancy provides its visitors with a Jeep EcoTour, that goes even into the interior of the island including bison-worthy sites that can be accessed only by the agency.

If lucky enough you can also spot the garibaldi, California quail, bald eagles, and the California poppy Bison do not come into the city, but they do wander into the interiors of the campgrounds and Two Harbors. 

If you spot one when hiking, biking, or camping please remember that they are undomesticated and free-roaming animals. They can feel threatened or act out and interactions might cause serious injury.

How Many Bison In California?

Bison In California

From 1924 to 1996, a total number of 59 bison have been moved to the island to the herd, mostly male, to enhance herd genetics. This performed really well, and since 1969, over 2,000 bison have been released from the island and taken back to their habitat. 

This project has helped in maintaining the population of bison on the island from increasing out of control, it increased to 530 in the year 1987. Since then the count has been reduced to about 150 bison which is easy for the Catalina Island preserve to maintain the population number. 

Since their initial stranding, many measures have been enforced to help control the growing inhabitants. Over the course of time, bison have been subtracted and added to keep the herd healthy.

Are Bison Native To California?

The symbol of Wild America did not exist in California during the 17th Century, though there have been a few disputes on whether the herds might have sometimes ranged into the state. But apart from the chance that the bison might have stayed and a couple of mysterious reports, there is practically no evidence of bison in California. 

This is because bison do not climb up steep mountains and avoid them when they can. The bison seen on the island are only native to the Great Plains area of the U.S., which was moved in the year 1924. The farthest towards the west in the nation, their habitat ever extended was in the northeastern California region and nowhere next to Los Angeles. 

Also Read About Bison In Alaska

Can You Own/Raise A Bison In California?

Yes, in California bison can be owned as livestock. These large animals are often seen as farming species and are mostly utilized for fur and meat production. It is quite unclear if you would need a permit for possessing bison in California. 

But these animals are mostly used only for agricultural purposes, which cannot legally make them as pets. Though bison might look identical to regular cattle or livestock, their sheer power suggests they need specialized maintenance and vast areas of space.

Why Were Bison Brought To Catalina Island?

In the year 1924, the movie The Vanishing American was shot on the Island, and a scene needed bison. The crew brought around 14 bison from the Great Plains to the island with the purpose of ultimately taking them back home. 

But, they never cleared the island. This is because the film’s budgets dried up and they did not have enough money to move the 1,000-pound extras to their home—the Great Plains. So they ended up staying on the island, consumed the grass, and reproduced in the state of California. 

Also Check Our Guide On Bison In America


And that was everything you need to know about the Bison In California. I hope this article answered all your questions. 

Thank You For Reading!

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