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About Bison

The American Bison is a majestic animal. Simply walking nearby these animals gives an appreciation -- which you don't get from the photos -- of just how large they are. A closeup encounter with a bison is something you will never forget...

Bison in North America and Europe were nearly wiped out but are recovering thanks to careful breeding of the last remaining herds. Right now more live on cattle farms than anywhere else. Very few roam wild and even the Yellowstone National Park herd is rounded up and slaughtered in a controversial plan to prevent bison from spreading disease to neighboring cattle. The North Dakota Agriculture Department says the North America bison population is about 90,000, and about 85% are privately owned. Buffalo ranchers charge up to $3,500 for a canned hunt of a bison. Fortunately, there are still a few places where you can view the Bison roaming wild and free.

The Best Hotspotsi

Very few Bison roam wild and free. But we know where. See all the best locations below.

Top Wildlife Photographs

Bison - Click on photo to enlarge.

National Bison Range, Montana

Bison roam free on the 18,500-acre National Bison Range Wildlife Refuge , 45 miles north of Missoula in Montana. These 2,000-pound animals graze on mountain prairie grasses with other ungulates such as elk, white-tailed and mule deer, pronghorns and bighorn sheep. Visitors often see black bears and coyotes; a look overhead reveals eagles, hawks and other birds. -- Jean Arthur

The National Bison Range is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It was established in 1908, making it over 100 years old, and one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the nation. The 18,500 acre range was established to support a population of American bison. It is home to about 350-500 of these animals. Other large wildlife found on the Range include elk, white-tail and mule deer, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, black bear, coyote and ground squirrels who share the area with 350 to 500 bison. Over 200 species of birds also call this home including eagles, hawks, meadowlarks, bluebirds, ducks, and geese. Because of its open grasslands, the Bison Range is a place for the public to enjoy some excellent wildlife observation and photography.

The 19 mile Red Sheep Mountain Drive is open from mid-June to mid-October and leads to beautiful views of the Mission Mountains. To see young bison calves, visit the refuge in April and May. The annual bison roundup is held in October.

Bison - Click on photo to enlarge.

Yellowstone National Park

The best place to see Bison, without question, is Yellowstone National Park. They are all over the park, and sightings are guaranteed. But Hayden Valley, on the eastern portion of Yellowstone, is where they gather in the greatest numbers.

North Dekota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the best places in the country to see the great bison that were once a central fixture of life in the Great Plains. You are almost guaranteed a sighting of these humongous animals, who roam freely throughout the park. GORP users have consistently given the park high ratings for wildlife viewing and scenery. Some even claim that North Dakota's Badlands compete with those of South Dakota for beauty. Another bonus? Theodore Roosevelt receives far fewer visitors than many other national parks. Backcountry hikers will be rewarded with peace and solitude.


Oklahoma, whose tallgrass prairies once supported tens of thousands of bison, now has two bison refuges. The smaller is the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, in southwest Oklahoma. About 600 bison can be seen and photographed here, the descendents of 15 bison introduced here in 1907 from the New York Zoological Park. The best time to photograph bison is November, when the tallgrasses on which they graze are in hues of red and gold.

The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, near Pawhuska in northern Oklahoma, has a bison herd numbering about 2500. In late May the Preserve is covered with wildflowers, making an colorful backdrop when photographing the bison.


Most people who come to Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge , in Iowa about a half-hour east of Des Moines, Iowa, have just one question: Where do I go to see the buffaloes' But while the refuge is best known for its small herd, the visitor center offers a fascinating primer in tallgrass prairie ecology and history, and birdlife is abundant along the trails. -- Hannah Agran. See Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge.


In Kentucky, located in the national recreation area known as Land Between the Lakes (between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake), Kentucky's only drive-through elk and bison prairie gives visitors up-close views of these majestic animals. The Elk & Bison Prairie (EBP) is a restoration of a native habitat lost more than a century ago. Elk and bison have been reintroduced to this area and roam freely within a 700-acre range. In addition to the Elk and Bison, numerous other wildlife species also thrive in the prairie, such as wild turkeys, a variety of birds, small game, and prairie mammals. Open daily, the 3.5-mile driving route includes roadside exhibits about the herd and other native wildlife. Steve Vest. See Land Between the Lakes.


A herd of 200-400 Bison live on the island of Santa Catalina, off the coast of California (near Los Angeles). There are many tours into the island to see them -- but a better idea is to hike through the interior of the island. See Santa Catalina Island.


Wild bison are roaming Colorado’s prairie for the first time in more than a century, at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge (about 11 miles from Denver). More than 12,000 acres has been turned over to the Fish and Wildlife Service. To see the Bison, which are not otherwise viewable, you'll need to sign up for one of the 2 hour wildlife tours, which are given on Wednesday and Saturday at 9:30. See Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge


Click on any photo to enlarge...


National Bison Range Wildlife Refuge

Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge

Land Between the Lakes

Santa Catalina Island

Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge