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Bison are members of the genus Bison under the family Bovid. They are even-toed, hoofed mammals that currently have two living species – the American bison (Bison bison) and the European bison (Bison bonasus). Once densely populated in North America and Europe, bisons are now close to extinction caused by overhunting.
See the fact file below for more information on the bison or alternatively, you can download our 21-page Bison worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
HABITAT AND RANGE
- Bison are one of the largest ungulates, standing 5 to 6.5 feet tall at the shoulder and reaching 800 to 2,200 pounds. Males are usually larger and possess bigger horns than females. The head and forequarters of these mammals are massive with a large hump on the shoulders.
- Bison reach sexual maturity in two years and live for about 20 years.
- Mating occurs in the summer. Females give birth to one calf annually, usually every spring, when conditions are suitable for her calf.
- Bison are “polygymous”, as dominant males keep a small group of females for mating.
- Bulls compete over the right to mate with females. Typically, males that are bigger in size and have larger horns and thicker fur on the head and front of the body have the advantage in these situations. In some cases, smaller, younger, or less confident males will accept defeat, and no fight will occur.
BISON’S PLACE IN NATURE
- Bison strictly get their energy from eating plants. American bison, which can be found in grasslands, are grazers, while their European cousins are browsers and live in forests.
- American bison wander over the grassland to find better conditions. In the past, groups of bison traveled thousands of kilometers seasonally to benefit from the different growing conditions, which also gave the grass enough time to recover and grow.
- Their droppings and urine cultivate the soil, returning needed oxygen.
- They are also prone to parasites, such as the winter tick, Dermacentor albipictus. A single tick can slow down a calf’s growth by 1.5 pounds due to the blood it consumes.
- Bison roll in dirt to get rid of ticks and other parasites, and this also helps them maintain cool body temperatures during hot weather.
- The black-tailed prairie dog, Cynomys ludovicianus, is known for a mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationship with the American bison. This little rodent feeds on the same grass as the bison and forms large groups in underground tunnels called “towns”. Bison are drawn to these rodents’ towns by the huge mounds of dirt extracted from these tunnels, which the mammals use to roll in. The bison benefit from the prairie dogs by consuming the tall grass and fertilizing the soil, both of which support the growth of short, healthy grass.
- Due to their large size, bison have few predators. Wolves are the most notorious predators of bison in North America and Europe. Wolves usually take advantage of calves and vulnerable bison. Studies also suggest that the bison’s impulse to retreat immediately from predators, instead of standing and fighting like other bovines do, gives it better leverage to survive the encounter.
- The brown bear, Ursus arctos, also known as the grizzly bear, also feeds on bison, but is too slow to catch a healthy bison, so this predator usually feeds on those that have died from cold or illness.
- The American bison, Bison bison, is the largest terrestrial mammal that lives in North America.
- It has two subspecies – the Plains bison (Bison bison bison), distinct for its smaller size and more rounded hump; and the wood bison (Bison bison athabascae), known for its larger size and taller, more square-shaped hump.
- A white bison, compared to an albino, has pigment in the skin, hair, and eyes. It is also viewed as a holy mammal by most Native Americans.
- The European bison, Bison bonasus, also called wisent, is the heaviest land mammal in Europe, usually standing 1.8 to 2 meters tall and weighing 300 to 1,000 kg.
- Unlike its American cousin, the wisent has shorter hair on the neck, head, and forequarters.
- There are three subspecies, two of which are extinct. The lowland wisent is the only extant subspecies.
BISONS AND HUMANS
- Bison used to have large numbers and served as essential prey for hunters in the prehistoric era. However, during the nineteenth century, both species of bison almost reached extinction, largely caused by human hunting.
- Excessive hunting of bison became one of the major causes of these mammals’ near extinction in North America.
- Bison skins were utilized as industrial machine belts and clothing, such as robes and rugs. Bison hides also played a role in export trade to Europe.
- Beginning in 1951, wisents were reintroduced into the wild.
- For some Native Americans, the bison is considered significant to their history, and they treat these mammals as a symbol of national identity.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the bison across 21 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Bison worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the bison which are members of the genus Bison under the family Bovid. They are even-toed, hoofed mammals that currently have two living species – the American bison (Bison bison) and the European bison (Bison bonasus). Once densely populated in North America and Europe, bisons are now close to extinction caused by overhunting.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Bison Facts
- The One-Ton Bison
- It’s a Bison Thing
- Extinct and Extant
- Life Stages
- Bison and Buffalo
- Keystone Species
- Bison Quiz
- Bison Wiki
- How They Survived Extinction
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Link will appear as Bison Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, April 12, 2021
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.