Bison In Yellowstone: Everything You Need To Know

Last Updated on September 14, 2023 by Amin Tawar

Bison In Yellowstone
Bison In Yellowstone: Everything You Need To Know

Only a few national parks can compete with the diverse wildlife and landscapes found in Yellowstone national park. The parks’ awe-inspiring natural wonders have also been included in several movies, which have captured viewers’ hearts for these many years. In fact, the park is aptly named “Wonderland” for its unique natural beauty, history, wildlife, etc. 

In its catalog of unique species, the American Bison occupies an important place. Their formidable status among the beasts makes them a symbol of resilience and strength. 

Unfortunately, the above features also make them a good sport for hunting. And that’s why, at one point of them they were so intensively hunted that the state park had only about two dozen populations of these majestic creatures.

Their significance in the national park’s ecosystem makes it important for us to know all about them. In fact, Bison’s almost extinction and its comeback should motivate a lot of the public to take similar measures to prevent the extinction of other important top predators. 

It sure did motivate me. Below I’ve explained everything you need to know about the Bison in Yellowstone.

Are There Bison in Yellowstone Wild?

Yes, without a doubt, the Yellowstone national park located in Wyoming state inhabits a stable population of Bisons. In fact, Yellowstone is the only place where these tenacious creatures have been living since pre-historic times. 

Bison are social animals that often form herds that are active mostly during the day and sometimes at night. In general, Bison primarily feed on grasses and sedges. One fun fact about them is, they are often also called Buffalo. Yes, Buffalo is Bisons’ just in an informal way. 

Yellowstone Bison Population?

As of 2022 surveys, there are roughly 5900 Bisons in Yellowstone. Out of this 4460 belong to the northern breeding pair and 1360 belong to the central breeding pair. 

There was a time, in the not-so-distant past where there were only a handful of Bisons left in Yellowstone. Market hunting and extensive poaching pushed these creatures to the brink of extinction. 

As the US army was sent to administer the park, Bison were well protected from poaching. Additionally, private herd bison were also reintroduced into the park. All these efforts helped to restore the Bison population in the park.

What Is Special About the Bison in Yellowstone?

Oh! The Yellowstone Bison is very special. Its successful population restoration represents the importance of conservation efforts. Moreover, as Bison has been living in the region since prehistoric times, it is very much significant and a day-to-day part of tribal culture. 

For their ecosystem, Bison graze and help shape their habitat for the growth of a variety of plants. This has led them to be one of the keystone species of the park. 

Did you know, unlike Bisons in other parts of the country, Yellowstone Bison is considered to be genetically pure? Yes, Decades ago, when few bison were introduced in the park, they were allowed to breed only with the existing Bison and never with cows. This helped preserve the unique genetic traits of Bison since prehistoric times. 

Are Bison in Yellowstone Dangerous?

Bison In Yellowstone
Bison In Yellowstone: Everything You Need To Know

At first glance, a Bison may appear calm and docile. But don’t be fooled by their demeanor, they are large and can run at high speed. They can be dangerous if you go too close to them, provoke them, threaten them, or harass them. Don’t forget, they are wild animals that have been existing since prehistoric times.  

Can You Touch Bison in Yellowstone?

No, You cannot and shouldn’t touch a Bison or any wild animal for that matter. Don’t forget that these creatures are very large and possess sharp horns. They are not domesticated and hence have their own instincts and act according to that.

It is therefore safe to view them from a distance of at least more than 23 meters. The best way is to observe them from vehicles in designated areas. It is important that we understand that bison is part of our ecosystem, and as the apex predator of the chain, we need to protect them as well as ourselves.

Also Check Our guide On Bison In Wyoming

Who Eats Bison in Yellowstone?

Bison aren’t the only large unique creatures found in their ecosystem. They share the park with large predators like wolves and grizzly bears. Both of these carnivores are known to hunt and consume Bisons. However, Bison doesn’t occupy a significant part of their diet.

Aside from these natural predators, Bison alive or dead are also consumed by scavengers like bald eagles and coyotes. Having said all this, it is important for any animal including Bison to have natural predators that help keep prey population numbers in check.

How Big Is a Yellowstone Bison?

Did you know, Bison are the largest terrestrial animals living in North America? They generally weigh anywhere between 500 kg to 900kg (1100-1900 lbs) and occasionally even reach a ton! It’s important to note that similar to many other wild animals, the Bison male is also larger than the Bison female.

In terms of height and length too, Bison beat almost all the wild animals, especially in Yellowstone. They stand at a whopping 6 feet tall at the shoulder and are about 9-11 ft in length. Naturally, a human standing beside it would look considerably small and vulnerable.

How Long Do Bison Live in Yellowstone?

Before we provide you with any estimates, it’s important to know that, like any wild creature, a Bison’s life span depends on the environment it lives in, the food it eats, and its genetics. For instance, Bison in captivity and those in the wild are subjected to different factors. 

In general, a Bison live up to 15 to 20 years in the wild. In Yellowstone, Bison live anywhere between 12 to 15 years. But for this, it’s important that they are well nourished and protected from predators, especially during their initial life. During their first few years after birth, Bison are very vulnerable to predation. 

How Do Bison Survive in Yellowstone?

Bison survive mostly by themselves in Yellowstone as did their ancestors. As an herbivore, the park is a heaven for Bison due to the presence of grasslands everywhere. During winter months, the Bison go towards lower landscapes to find grasses not covered in snow. 

In addition to seasonal migration, these resilient creatures also form and move in groups. This provides them protection against the natural predators in their ecosystem like wolves and grizzlies. 

In addition to this, humans too support their survival through various conservation efforts. 

How Many Bison Were Killed in Yellowstone?

While a precise number cannot be provided, a significant number of Bisons were killed in Yellowstone in the past. After European colonization, by the 19th and 20th centuries, Bison were widely being hunted, killed, and were reduced to only about 23 individuals. The park had also established policies to kill these animals due to overgrazing, disease transmission, etc. 

Due to the influence of conservationists, and state government, the Bison population today is being managed more conservatively. Tolerance zones, and transfer of excess Bison, are some of the efforts taken up by the National Park Service which regulates and controls the wildlife in the park.

What Is the Disease That Killed the Bison in Yellowstone?

Like all wild animals, Bisons too occasionally catch some diseases that may sometimes lead to fatality. One such disease which had/has serious repercussions is Brucellosis. 

In fact, about 60% of the female bison in the park tested positive for exposure to Brucella bacteria. It is a livestock disease that can be transmitted via contact with infected fetal tissue. Other than Bisons, the typical victims are elks and even cattle.

To prevent this, the National Park Service along with other federal and state agencies develop policies and procedures for Bison access. This is important as; the disease can also pass from Bison to people if people come in contact with the affected animals. 

Also Check Our Guide On Bison In America

Can You Hunt Bison in Yellowstone?

No, You cannot hunt Bison in Yellowstone. Bison is managed as a wildlife species by National Park Service and is considered one of the iconic parts of not only the country’s landscapes but also its history and heritage.

Moreover, Yellowstone is a national park where wildlife is preserved in its natural habitat. And it’s only due to these efforts towards conservation that we are able to view these Bisons safely face to face. 

It is strictly prohibited to hunt Bison inside the park. However, outside the park’s premises, other states may allow hunting at designated seasons. If you are planning to hunt, do look at the latest regulations in the state where you are traveling.

How Many Deaths/Attacks from Bison in Yellowstone?

Bison are as dangerous as they look. Sometimes weighing a ton, these large wild creatures are capable of hurting humans, especially when you come closer to them.

In Yellowstone, there have been a few incidents of injuries and even fatalities due to Bisons in the last few years. Between the mid-1900s and early 2000s, about 56 people have been injured due to Bison attacks and 2 have been killed by Bison. In recent years, this has been reduced, thanks to awareness among the visitors. In the last 20 years, about 25 people have been injured. 


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

Thank You For Reading!

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