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Nothing symbolizes the American wilderness like the howl of a wolf, a grizzly fishing for salmon, or the sight of a bison herd grazing  the great plains. But only one can be the new National Mammal. After years of effort, the well-deserved title now belongs to the Bison (also known as the American Buffalo), who has been named National Mammal of the United States. 

National Mammal of the USA: the Bison

The Bison is now the National Mammal of the United States of America

On May 9, President Barack Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act, designating the bison the status of national mammal of the U.S. As the national mammal, the bison now joins the bald eagle (designated as a national emblem in 1782 at the 2nd Continental Congress), the oak (designated as the national tree in 2004) and the rose (designated as the national floral emblem in 1998), as official symbols of America.

Dozens of organizations have supported the initiative in a push that lasted several years, led by the Inter Tribal Buffalo Council, National Bison Association, and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)—more than 60 in total, according to the WCS in a news release.  “This marks the final step in a four-year effort, led by the Vote Bison Coalition, to honor the bison, which is culturally, historically and ecologically important to the United States.” the WCS noted.

National Mammal of the United States: the Bison (aka Buffalo)

Bison at sunrise in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

“Recognition of our new national mammal will bring a new source of pride for Americans—just like the bald eagle—and also bring greater attention to ongoing species recovery efforts,” Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-MD)

From a population  of tens of millions of individuals to less than a 100 remaining in 1902, their numbers are finally rebounding, but wild populations are still in trouble. According to Defenders of Wildlife, there are more than 500,000 bison living in North America, but most of them are not wild, pure bison, having been cross-bred with cattle in the past and are now semi-domesticated for meat production. Fewer than 5,000 wild, un-fenced, and disease-free bison remain.

bison roaming the plains in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

A bison herd in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota


Our Best Bison Photos

In honor of our new national mammal of the USA, we’ve collected a few of our best bison photos to say “Congratulations to the Bison!” and may it long wander the American prairies, wild and free!

Bison calf with his mother

Mother bison and calf at Fort Whyte, Winnipeg, Manitoba


Bison on a snowy landscape in Yellowstone, Wyoming

Some of America’s last truly wild bison in Yellowstone National Park


Close up of bison eye

The eye of the Bison


Bison swimming across the Yellowstone River

Bison are excellent swimmers. Here a herd swims across the Yellowstone River


Bison grazing in a snow covered field in Yellowstone

Bison can still graze in three feet of snow by using their huge heads as a snow plow!


portrait of a female bison in Yellowstone National Park

Female bison like this one have thinner horns and narrower heads.


Buffalo traffic jam in Yellowstone

It’s not uncommon to run into a bison traffic jam in Yellowstone National Park


Huge bison in Yellowstone

Bison are the largest land mammals in North America (up to 2,000 pounds!) and this one looks exceptionally fat!

A bison watches a jet trail in Yellowstone

Bison watching a jet trail cross the sky. This ancient species now needs our help to persist in a human-dominated landscape.


Bison plowing snow in Yellowstone

Bison plowing snow to graze in the middle of January.


A herd of bison grazing in Yellowstone

There is no greater symbol of American wilderness than a herd of bison grazing the plains.


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best photos of bison