The trends circling bison caused food shortages and starvation for native tribes who had relied on the magnificent animal for centuries. Eventually, the tribes were relocated to reservations and began relying on farming and government rations. By the late 19th century, only a few hundred wild bison remained and they were on the brink of extinction.
Thanks to the efforts of conservationists and farmers, bison populations have been able to slowly grow.
Bison meat is sold in many restaurants across the Black Hills such as Black Hills Burger and Bun Co. in Custer, Desperados Cowboy Restaurant in Hill City, Bumpin Buffalo Bar & Grill in Hill City, Powder House Lodge Restaurant in Keystone, Buffalo Saloon & Grille in Wall, Grizzly Creek Restaurant in Keystone, and Blue Bell Lodge in Custer.
They are not only a symbol of the west, but as of 2016, bison is also the national mammal of the United States.
South Dakota has the more bison than any other state, so it is the ideal destination to catch a glimpse of the great American bison.
Visitors can watch the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup in the fall where the Custer State Park herd of 1300 bison is rounded up. Also in Custer State Park, the Wildlife Loop Road occasionally has a bison herd within viewing distance.
Other great locations to catch a view of bison is near Wind Cave National Park and Bear Butte State Park. But remember – bison are aggressive, unpredictable, and fast. They often appear calm but can become aggressive in an instant. They are faster than humans, strong, and dangerous. If you see a bison, keep your distance and do not approach.
“Bison” and “Buffalo” — What’s the difference?
If you say either buffalo or bison, people would know what you’re referring to, but bison is considered the correct term. The animal was called a buffalo due to its resemblance to Asian and African buffalo species. However, there are key biological differences between bison and buffalo. Bison have a shoulder hump of muscle and large heads. Buffalo on the other hand, have smaller heads and no hump. Bison have smaller horns than all species of buffalo.
Main buffalo species include the African Cape buffalo and the Asian water buffalo. The main bison species are the American bison and the European bison.
- Bison are the largest mammal in North America.
- Yellowstone National Park has the largest bison population on public lands.
- Baby bison tend to be orange in color and change to dark brown after a few months.
- They can run up to 40 miles per hour.
- Their ancestors crossed the landbridge from Asia to North America about 400,000 years ago. These ancient ancestors were much bigger than modern bison.