It’s official: President Obama has signed legislation designating the American bison as the national mammal of the United States.
We previously reported that the U.S. House of Representative had passed the National Bison Legacy Act, which then sped through the Senate. The bill arose out of work done not only by wildlife conservationists and bison enthusiasts, but also through the work of the InterTribal Buffalo Council, which was established to “restore bison to Indian nations in a manner that is compatible with their spiritual and cultural beliefs and practices.”
Although the bison has always roamed outside Yellowstone National Park, with a historic range spanning most of North America, Yellowstone will always be an important part of the animal’s survival, since it became a de facto enclave for the animals—barring the occasional bout of poaching early in the Park’s history.
Indeed, not only is Yellowstone home to the only herd of bison that weren’t extirpated from their regular range, it’s also home to some of the only bison directly descended from the original North American herd. Although the bison has rebounded mightily, most bison outside Yellowstone are bison-cattle hybrids, usually raised for their meat.
If you want to learn a thing or two about bison, we heartily recommend you pick up a copy of American Bison by Dale F. Lott. Or by visiting the Park and seeing them in action! But be careful; they’re fiercely defensive of their personal space.