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Plains Bison


  • Status
    Near Threatened
  • Population
  • Scientific Name
    Bison bison bison
  • Weight
    701 to 2,000 pounds
  • Length
    7-12 ft.
  • Habitats

Symbols of strength and determination, bison are Ice Age survivors. Clearing away snow and brush with their massive heads, they weigh up to 2,000 pounds and can run up to 40 miles per hour. Once numbering 30-60 million in North America, their numbers were decimated in just a few decades as expansion pressed westward. No other species on Earth has declined so quickly. Several Native American tribes are working with WWF to grow bison numbers once again across vast grasslands under their management.

Fort Peck Tribes Leaders Restore Bison on Reservation

One hundred and thirty-six wild Yellowstone bison—free of cattle genes—reclaimed their historic home in the Northern Great Plains when released into the Fort Peck Indian Reservation’s cultural buffalo reserve.

bison group

Why They Matter

  • Historically bison were the dominant grazer on the Northern Great Plains landscape. This dominance shaped the landscape by affecting the pattern and structure of the grasses and vegetation that grew. Expansive areas of native grasslands allowed animals to flourish along with many species of other prairie wildlife.


  • Population 20,504
  • Extinction Risk Near Threatened
    1. EX

      No reasonable doubt that the last individual has died

    2. EW
      Extinct in the Wild

      Known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalised population

    3. CR
      Critically Endangered

      Facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the Wild

    4. EN

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    5. VU

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    6. NT
      Near Threatened

      Likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future

    7. LC
      Least Concern

      Does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, or Near Threatened

Plains Bison

What WWF Is Doing

Plains Bison

WWF is identifying opportunities and creating places where bison can thrive in large herds (numbering over 1000 bison) on vast landscapes in the Northern Great Plains, the heart of the plains bison’s historic range. We are partnering with the Oglala Lakota to create the nation’s first tribal national park and restore a herd of bison to ancestral homelands. We work with Fort Peck Reservation, Fort Belknap Reservation, and Yellowstone National Park to conserve the genetically important bison from the Park by supporting the movement of animals into new landscapes where they are welcome. We also engage in research and public outreach activities aimed at reminding the American public why bison, symbols of strength and determination, are so critical to the restoration of the American prairie.


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