Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
And Then There Were (Almost) None
How many bison once roamed North America?
A good estimate is that roughly 30 million bison once roamed the grasslands of North America. To the explorers Lewis and Clark, the herds "darkened the whole plains." What happened? People. Massive hunting campaigns brought an end to the seemingly endless herds. Growth of farming and ranching and sever draught caused even more loss.
A "bullish" economy
Bison were a staple of the economy in the 1800s. As Americans became more industrial, the need for machine belts made from hides grew and grew. Sport-hunting also became the rage. Railroad companies offered tourists a chance to shoot bison from the coaches; one record-setting rider killed as many as 120 animals in 40 minutes. Within 50 years, the great herds were gone.
Time to stop "bullying" around!
By the late 1800s, about 325 wild bison were left. Congress began to take action to protect the remaining bison, and private ranchers started to create small herds. Slowly, the population crept up, thanks to legal protection, refuges and breeding programs. Today about 30,000 live in conservation herds and hundreds of thousands live on private ranches. Efforts to bring back massive herds will take time, land and a strong commitment to the recovery of this treasured animal.
William Jacob Hays, The Gathering of the Herds (1866)
Courtesy of the Anschuts Collection. Photo: William J. O'Connor
Pile of bison skulls (c. 1870)
Burton Historical Collection/Detroit Public Library
Yellowstone National Park (2004)
Erected by Smithsonian Institution.
Location. 38° 55.897′ N, 77° 3.145′ W. Marker is in Smithsonian National Zoo, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on Olmsted Walk. Touch for map. On the grounds of the Smithsonian National Zoological Garden. Marker is at or near this postal address: 3001 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington DC 20008, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Bison and the National Zoo (a few steps from this marker); Meet Our Bison (a few steps from this marker); Feeding Times at the Zoo (within shouting distance of this marker); It's Our 125th Birthday! (within shouting distance of this marker); House Remodeling (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Olmsted Walk (about 300 feet away); Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (about 400 feet away); Smithsonian's National Zoo (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Smithsonian National Zoo.
Categories. • Animals • Environment •
Credits. This page was last revised on December 19, 2017. This page originally submitted on December 17, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 51 times since then and 2 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on December 17, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.