The bison or buffalo once thrived on Minnesota prairies. However, by 1900, settlement and slaughter by market hunters and the U.S. Army combined to reduce buffalo numbers to a handful of captive bison. Soldiers killed thousands of buffalo in an attempt to starve out Native American tribes.
General description: A mature bull may stand five to six feet high at the shoulder, measure nearly ten feet in length, and weigh more than 2,000 pounds. Cows are smaller, weighing about 1,200 pounds.
Color: Bison are dark brown, but their heads and shoulders are almost black. Thick, shaggy hair covers their shoulders, neck, forelegs, and massive head. Curving outward and upward from the head are sharp horns. Both males and females grow horns.
A grazing mammal, the bison feeds almost entirely on grasses.
Habitat and range
It is considered extirpated in the wild.
Population and management
Today, largely because of captive herds, buffalo have been reintroduced in preserves and parks in Minnesota. Only evidence of the once great herds are an occasional deposit of bones, shallow depressions which were formed by wallowing buffalo, and large boulders worn smooth by thousands of bison as they rubbed off their shaggy winter coats.
A herd of bison reside at Blue Mounds State Park. In 1961 Blue Mounds State Park added three bison from the Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge near Valentine, Nebraska to start the present bison herd. Today, the Blue Mounds' herd is maintained at more than 100 bison.