Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Big Boys

Weighing in at up to 2000 lbs, the American Bison (Bison bison) is the largest land mammal in North America, and certainly the biggest thing out here on Antelope Island.

Brought to the Island in the early 1890s as a way to help maintain the then nearly extinct species (and as a money making endeavor), the Antelope Island herd is one of the largest publicly owned herds in the nation.

And they often hang out just outside my front door.

Despite their large size and seemingly lazy attitude, Bison can run up to 30 mph! And they can get annoyed rather easily.

Here's a video I found on Youtube of some boneheads getting too close.

Look at the head on that bad boy. It's pretty large for its size and is held up by large muscles attached to an enlarged scapula, and several upper thoracic ribs. Those muscles not only hold that head up, but is what allows such short legs to move so quickly.

There are nearly 700 Bison on the Island right now. The carrying capacity is about 550 to allow enough food to support the other herbivores out here (mule deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn). Generally, large predators would help keep their numbers in check, but unfortunately, the largest predators on Antelope Island are coyotes, and they are no where near big enough to take down a Bison. So the Park has to help in that regard.

Every year, at the end of October/first of November the herd is rounded up and corralled for a few weeks while wildlife managers check their health, give vaccinations, check for pregnancy and select about 200 animals to be auctioned off.

Now this whole time I've been calling them Bison. Surely you've also heard them called Buffalo. So what's the difference?

Well, here's a Buffalo:

This is a Cape Buffalo from Africa. Technically, we don't have Buffalo in the US (not naturally occurring, anyway).

The term Buffalo has been used to describe our Bison since the arrival of the Anglos in North America. So it's a term that's just kind of there and used interchangeably with Bison. But if you want to be technical, what we have living here in North American are American Bison.

And they are currently my closest neighbors.


Kim Nordyke said...

You are so smart.

Jenny said...

Very cool! My kids are going to read your blog for school today. :)

Wendy said...

Awe, Kim. :

Jenny, that is so cool!