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Bison Restoration

Bison used to number in the millions on the Great Plains, but animals in conservation herds now stand at around 31,000 and are considered “near threatened.”

Because most conservation herds are less than 500 on small landscapes, the species is listed as "ecologically extinct," meaning bison no longer play their critical roles in shaping prairie biodiversity.

An Icon of the West

The plains bison, also commonly known as the buffalo, is an iconic symbol of the free and open spirit of the North American prairie. While tens of millions of bison once roamed the Great Plains — described as “innumerable” by early 18th century European explorers — only an estimated 360,000 bison remain in North America today. Of these, less than 10 percent live in conservation herds. Most of the bison on the landscape today are raised for commercial purposes.

 

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Photo by Erik Goldstein

Senior Bison Restoration Manager Scott Heidebrink conducts aerial surveys of the bison herds twice a year to assess population sizes and birth rates. As of fall 2020, the total bison population of all three herds is:

810

As of February 2021, the total number of American Prairie bison donated to tribal and conservation herds is:

404

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The Herd on American Prairie

We restore bison to their original habitat on American Prairie lands, providing visitors a chance to witness the majestic species that astounded the earliest explorers and played a central role in the culture and spirituality of Native Americans. Thanks to donors and collaborators, we reintroduced bison on our lands in 2005, returning a species that had been gone from the landscape for more than 120 years. Learn more about the herd:

Contributing to Bison Conservation Nationwide

As part of American Prairie's desire to make a positive contribution to bison restoration efforts across the country, we have donated bison to many conservation and tribal herds across the country.