Bison In Illinois: Everything You Need To Know About Them

Last Updated on September 14, 2023 by Amin Tawar

Bison In Illinois
Bison In Illinois: Everything You Need To Know About Them

Owning a pair of horns, one big hump in the back and thick chocolate-brown fur, these creatures are visually magnificent. They are often associated with the American West but are actually found all over the country including Illinois. Yes, we are talking about Bison.

Animals don’t typically have emotions and that’s one of the features that differentiate them from humans. But despite that, Bison does seem to put up an expression of seriousness. We are not kidding. See any photographs of these resilient creatures.

Jokes aside, Bison is a significant part of our ecosystem. Not only that, but they also have cultural and historical significance. These wild animals have been extirpated in various states of the country out of which Illinois is also a part. 

To tackle this various conservation efforts have been undertaken like the reintroduction of Bison in some parts of the state.

As a part of the general public, we might not interact with these creatures often, but as part of the larger ecosystem, it’s important that we must have relevant knowledge of Bison and support their survival.

Are There Wild Bison in Illinois?

Yes, Illinois does have a stable and growing population of Bison. But like in many other states, Bison were extirpated from Illinois as well. Extensive hunting, diseases, and loss of habitat were the main reasons for their extinction. 

About a few years ago, these fierce creatures were reintroduced as part of state efforts toward Bison conservation. Thanks to this there is now a flourishing population of Bison.

Are There Buffalo or Bison in Illinois?

Illinois is home to Bison belonging to the tribe Bovine in the genus Bison. Bison are found only in Europe and America. 

Buffalo belongs to the same family as that of Bison. However, these both are different animals and live in different climatic conditions. Unlike Bison, Buffalo is found in Africa and Asia.

Some other typical differences include Bison’s humps and thick fur. Due to Asia and Africa being tropical countries and winter being not very cold, Buffaloes don’t have fur on their skin. In terms of behavior too, Bisons and Buffalo differ. While Bison are aggressive, Buffalo is predominantly peaceful and that’s why are used as livestock.

How Many Bison Are Left in Illinois?

Bison In Illinois
Bison In Illinois: Everything You Need To Know About Them

In the early 1900s, due to overhunting, grassland conversion for agriculture, spreading of diseases, eradicated the wild Bison in Illinois. Note that once upon a time there was an abundance of Bison across the continent. 

There have been extensive efforts from various organizations both public and private to reintroduce Bison to their historical range. One of them is Nature Conservancy, a non-profit organization that has reintroduced Bison in Nachus Grasslands.

It is difficult to precisely estimate the population of Bison. However, about 30-40 bison altogether were introduced initially into various Grasslands, prairies, etc., which now has grown into thousands.

Where To See Bison in Illinois?

Historically, Bison occupied almost all the regions of the United States. Their resilience towards climatic change helped them survive in extreme climates.

After they were extirpated, some governments and non-government organizations took an effort to reintroduce a few Bisons into various regions. Initially starting with a small block of grassland or agricultural land, their coverage spread to acres and acres of land. 

Today, you can spot Illinois Bison in private ranches, nature preserves, privately owned lands, etc. Some of the significant ones are the Nachusa Grasslands and Medwin National Tallgrass Prairie.

When Was the Last Bison Killed in Illinois?

As per Ecowatch which provides news related to the environment, since the 1830s, no Bison has been spotted east of the Mississippi River. Before European settlement, these majestic creatures once roamed every part of the state and were found in large numbers. After that, Bison were extensively mass hunted, lost their habitats due to the conversion of prairies to Agricultural land, and were pushed towards extinction.

The last is believed to have disappeared in the 1820s due to hunting pressure. As per Illinois State Museum, the last known wild bison was killed in 1808. It was only after about 2 centuries that various organizations, both government and private took the initiative to reintroduce Bison in the state.

Can You Own a Bison in Illinois?

Yes, definitely. In Illinois, Bison is categorized as livestock. Therefore, the rules that apply to cattle and other livestock apply to Bison as well. These rules are set and managed by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Before you decide to own these large creatures, make sure that relevant arrangement for their survival is made in your shelter. This includes a considerable land area with grassland, appropriate fencing, etc. As regulations may sometime change, do stay in touch with the state regulations from time to time.

Also Read About Bison In Golden Gate Park

Can You Hunt Bison In Illinois?

No, You cannot hunt Bison in Illinois. They are one of the species that is being restored in the state and therefore it is illegal to hunt them. 

In addition to NGOs, even private ranchers have joined the Bison saving club. Unlike the protected Bison landscape, Bison can be hunted in private ranches. However, rules set by the ranchers need to be followed.

Also Read Our Guide On Bison In America


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

Thank You For Reading!

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