Hunting High and Low: American Bison

Grand Teton National Park (WY): Bison (Bison bison) at Antelope Falls

A while ago I posted a close-up shot of an American bison (Bison bison), while today’s image is a full-body portrait of the king of North American land mammals (by size, at least).

The reason I post this image is essentially to say that a new gallery is up on my Website with a selection of my bison shots, so feel free to check it out if you like this animal.

A few facts about the American bison (Bison bison). For starters, it is not called buffalo, it is called bison. As mentioned, weighing about 900 to 2,200 lb/400 to 1,000 kg, bison is the largest land mammal in North America. These large grazers have poor eyesight, but excellent senses of hearing and smell, which help them defend themselves from predators. Their sharp, curved horns can grow up to 2 ft/60 cm long.

It is estimated that centuries ago between 20 and 30 million bison freely roamed throughout North America, from Alaska all the way down to Mexico. Then, unregulated hunting in the XIX century (aimed also at depriving Native Americans of their primary food source) almost entirely wiped out the species, to the point that just a little over 1,000 bison were left in 1889. Today things have somewhat improved, and we can count about 500,000 bison in North America.

Unfortunately, however, the most part of that number are not pure bison, but animals that have been cross-bred with cattle and are raised as livestock (about 97% of the continental population is managed for private captive commercial propagation). Only about 30,000 “real” bison are in conservation herds and about 11,000 are in wild free-ranging and semi-free-ranging populations. Yellowstone National Park has the largest population of free-roaming plains bison (about 4,000).

As a result, the American bison is classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in light of its dependence on an ongoing conservation program, a very limited number of viable populations (five), and the small size of the populations.

Sources: Defenders of Wildlife; National Geographic; BBC NatureIUCN Red List

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

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27 thoughts on “Hunting High and Low: American Bison

    1. Stefano Post author

      Well, I was not so close: the animal looks close in the image, but this is because I used a telephoto lens, which allowed me to stay at a safe distance! 🙂

      Reply
  1. Maria Dernikos

    Your photos are so amazing and you seem to get so close to the animals. Do you photograph these alone? and do you research the dangers before you go out and photograph them (I was going to say shoot but felt it inappropriate!)?

    Reply
    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you very much, Maria! 🙂 It depends: sometimes I work alone and some other times I am with other photographer friends. Some other times, as was the case for Japan, with a local guide. Before photographing new (to me, I mean) species I always thoroughly research my subject to learn more about it, to (hopefully) anticipate its moves and of course to understand its comfort zone and its body language so as to be aware of signs of stress or discomfort which could anticipate a flight or, even worse, a charge. If you understand what is going on and you conduct yourself in a respectful and sensible manner, you minimize the risk of putting yourself and your subject in danger. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Heather (Sweet Precision)

    Wonderful photograph and excellent educational accompaniment as well. We actually had a bison farm not that far from where I grew up in Minnesota. I think for a while my parents were eating bison meat because it’s supposed to be a little healthier than beef?

    Reply
  3. Just Add Attitude

    As always Stefano a wonderful pic. It’s very sad to think that the bisons’ numbers declined so dramatically. But is’s good to hear that there is a big improvement since the 1989 count. 😉

    Reply
    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you, B. Yes, it is good to see an improvement, but it is important that a sustainable number of bisons survive in the wild. It would be said if what was left were only the domesticated type…

      Reply
  4. Dina

    Aha, how come that Stefano sounds so norwegian, I thought ..? 🙂 Wow, your Bisons are quite spectacular, Stefano. I’d like to see them in a calendar.

    I’m sure you’d love to travel Norway and photoshoot the Moschus at Dovre! 🙂 Why don’t we all meet in the North one day? And then we continue to Svalbard and the polar bears, dine and wine in Longyearbyen. 🙂
    Dreams are wonderful and give me lots of visions. It was always so. 🙂
    Good night to the three of you across the pond with a big hug
    Dina

    Reply
    1. Stefano Post author

      Hehehe! I am glad you picked up on my musical clue in the title, Dina! 🙂 Thank you for your kind words: yes, bisons are quite interesting animals indeed. I have been thinking about producing a calendar for a while – maybe next year, we’ll see…
      I tell you, I would LOVE to travel to Norway and meet you there to photograph together all the beauty there is in your blessed country! We should make that happen. Your short description made me salivate profusely! 🙂
      A great big hug,
      Stefano

      Reply
      1. Dina

        Sounds good with me! 🙂 🙂
        Your photos would make a great calendar, indeed.
        Have a great week, Stefano!
        A big hug from the four of us
        Dina

  5. ChgoJohn

    A wonderful post, Stefano, and you new gallery is a worthy addition to your website. Seeing the bison in such majestic settings, I can’t help but imagine what it must have been like on the Great Plains 300 years ago. Like the carrier pigeons that once filled the skies, we’ll never see herds of that size on this continent again.

    Reply
    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you very much, John! You are totally right: I can’t imagine it either – seeing all those bisons roam free on the Great Plains centuries ago must have been somewhat like witnessing the Great Migration in Africa!

      Reply
  6. caleephotography

    Another excellent bison shot, Stefano! What an impressive animal, I really hope I get to see one one day.. Yellowstone is on my travel wish list! 🙂 Very nice gallery, I like that you’ve included several shots that show the amazing landscapes as well. Beautiful!!

    Reply
    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you very much, Camilla: yes, I think you should definitely see and photograph them. Yellowstone and the adjacent (and very beautiful in its own right) Grand Teton are two parks that are certainly worth traveling to. Thanks again for your kind words 🙂

      Reply
    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you very much, dear Klausbernd! Glad you liked the image and the commentary. Bisons really are quite amazing creatures!
      A very big hug,
      Stefano

      Reply

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