Bison History - Extinction to Salvation
The Bison Saga... From near Extinction
Bison are the largest land mammals in North America and once roamed in the millions from the eastern seaboard to the pacific coast; From Alaska to northern Mexico. Rich in history, the bison saga is intertwined with North Americas native cultures. For these people the Bison provided everything they needed to survive in an otherwise harsh and inhospitable environment.
As trade with Europeans increased bison began being killed for just their hides and tongues. By the 1870s, more bison were killed than in any other decade in history and by 1890 Bison numbers had collapsed to just under 1000 animals and extinction seemed imminent. Although Bison numbers shrank to a perilously small figure due to overhunting, private and public conservation efforts gradually nudged their population upward.
The complete loss of Bison was prevented by the efforts of ranchers, and conservationists in Canada and the United States. Originally Bison were only found in national parks and zoos but over time some small herds were started on private ranches. The population stabilized and began to grow. In the 1980's these ranchers who had been supplying their local markets began to have enough product to sell beyond the farm gate. A new livestock industry began when these ranchers discovered that the public had an appetite for this Frontier Meat. Since then bison numbers have expanded significantly and today more than 95 percent of bison are privately owned and bison meat is part of a growing meat market for discerning meat connoisseurs. It is estimated that today the bison population in North America is well over 500,000 animals.