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Bison

So are they buffalo, or bison? The correct term is "American Bison," but they are popularly known as buffalo, as well. It might be hard to imagine, but the great plains were once home to 60 million of these magnificent animals. It's no wonder Native Americans relied on the bison for their existence—bison were the most plentiful resource on the plains. That picture has changed dramatically today. Montana is one of the last places where bison live, most notably in Yellowstone National Park and at the National Bison Refuge near Moiese. You can learn a lot about bison at Ulm Pishkun State Park in Northcentral Montana; the park is the site of a historic "buffalo jump" used by early Indians.

Bison
Bison bison: American Bison

Bison are the most massive herbivores, or plant eating animals, in North America. Males can weigh up to a ton, and females weigh in at about 1,000 to 1,200 pounds. As you can imagine, these are not animals you want to upset or frighten. Bison are very unpredictable, and have even been known to charge vehicles. You might be fooled into thinking their massive size makes them slow. Far from it; they can easily sprint at more 30 miles per hour, which is much faster than you can run (that's much faster than even Carl Lewis can run). Use extreme caution when watching bison, and once again, follow the golden rule of wildlife watching: keep your distance.

Bison usually travel in herds, with the exception of older males who are solitary. These bachelors join the herd only at breeding time to fight with the younger males for breeding rights. Females will leave the herd and find a secluded place for birthing, then rejoin the herd after the calf is about four days old. When bison roamed the entire great plains they migrated hundreds of miles in the spring and fall of each year, but now because of their limited habitat they migrate very little.