Best Places To See Buffalo (Bison)

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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. Some live in semi-wild pens for people to enjoy. 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.

North America: An estimated 40 to 60 million bison used to clop over North America. Then they were hunted by Native Americans then Europeans for their meat, fur, for export and finally the Army got the idea of wiping out the Indians by killing off bison, their big food supply. By the mid-1800s, we were down to several hundred animals. Teddy Roosevelt and the American Bison Society set up a few reserves to save the species. They pulled off the first reintroduction of a wild species by shipping animals to the the Wichita National Forest, the National Bison Range, Montana and the Wind Cave National Park, SD.

By 1930 buffalo ranches had eased concern the species would vanish. But now geneticists are worried that many are not pure bison. The northern subspecies, the wood bison (bison bison athabascae) went through even more trouble. It was largely replaced in its range by the plains bison (Bison bison bison) through reintroduction. The herds interbred and the plains bison basically took over Canada's Wood Buffalo National Park, bringing with it bovine tuberculosis (TB) and brucellosis, a disease that is very scary especially to cattle ranchers. In 1959 Canadian biologists found a tiny, isolated herd of wood bison near the Nyarling River and from that bred a new population.

Europe: The European bison or wisent (Bison bonasus), which slightly smaller animal, was pushed back to the forests of eastern Europe and finally just to the Białowieża Forest that borders Poland and Belarus. WWI German soldiers ate most, leaving only nine. Heinz Heck took animals from zoos and back-bred the species.

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.


What's the difference between a bison and buffalo?

All the animals you're seeing in North America are American bison (Bison bison). You can go ahead and call them buffalo, too. Everyone does. But, technically that's the wrong common name.

The two real buffalo species are in Africa (African cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer)) and Asia Asian water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis). Neither has the huge head.

But anyone who corrects you about the bison-buffalo nomenclature is just being pedantic.


We've divided the U.S. into regions: Midwest (MW), Northeast (NE), West (W) and South (S). Click on the emblem for your region and you'll jump to places to see the animal there.
Alaska Midwest Northeast Down South Out West Canada Europe


Alaska Alaska - See other animals in Alaska
Farewell Lake Bison Herd
About 200 plains bison (Bison bison bison) live near Farewell Lake and Egypt Mountain. Alaksa originally had the huskier wood bison (Bison bison athabascae), but they were hunted to extinction. Alaska reintroduced bison from Montana, then spread them around. Iditarod blogs says that dog racers may see them here, but they don't cause trouble. In fact one came up and licked a musher's face.
Delta Junction Bison Range, AK
The Delta Junction Bison Range got 23 bison in 1929 to replace the bison hunted to extinction in Alaska. Hunting began in 1947 and now keeps the population at about 250-300. 6,000-11,000 people pay $10 to apply each year for an average of 40 permits to hunt Delta bison.
Alaska officials say the best time to see the bison is mid-July to mid-September. Bonus species: moose, black bears
out west The West - See other animals out West



Yellowstone Bison
The bison herd in Yellowstone National Park moves around so ask the ranger where to go. Sometimes the Hayden Valley is clogged with them. In the winter, they graze in the northern end of the park. Map »



National Bison Range

National Bison Range got one of the first herds of buffalo after they were reintroduced by Teddy Roosevelt and the American Bison Society. Between 370 and 500 roam on the 18,500 acre prairie.
Bonus species: Elk, deer, pronghorn, black bear, coyote and ground squirrels
58355 Bison Range Road
Moiese, MT  (406) 644-2211



Antelope Island State Park

Antelope Island State Park could be called Bison Island. Even before Teddy Roosevelt started preserving buffalo, two Utahns, William Glassman and John Dooly,  brought bison to this island in the Great Salt Lake 1893.
Now the publicly owned herd is managed to stay at 550. Every fall they're rounded up, sorted and if there are more than 550, they're either sold to slaughter or to hunters.
The park is really close to Salt Lake City, though you will have to go up to Layton to drive there.
Antelope Island State Park, 4528 West 1700 South, Syracuse UT

Henry Mountain - UT - Bison
The remote Henry Mountains State Park has a herd of about 200 bison. You may be able to see the bison "along the South Summit Ridge of Mt. Ellen during the summer," park officials say. The park brags that this is " only free-roaming and huntable herd of American bison in the 48 contiguous United States." They issue permits to hunt 44 each year.

Catalina Island

A herd of about 200 bison roam Catalina Island off Los Angeles and no one is sure where they came from. National Geographic shot down the theory they were extras in a movie.
The herd grew from 14 to 600 at one point and the Catalina Island Conservancy worried they were demolishing the habitat.
In 2009 they went on PZP (Porcine Zona Pellucida) birth control, the kind recommended by the HSUS.
Bonus species: fox (which are getting out-competed by feral pigs), golden eagles (which eat the pigs), and Beechey's ground squirrels

House Rock Wildlife Area - Bison - AZ
A herd of about 200 bison live at the House Rock Wildlife Area, which is managed by Arizona Game and Fish. Lately these bison have been behaving like animals--they've been migrating into the Grand Canyon. That totally messes with the Grand Canyon's plan, so they round up the bison to keep them out of the national park. Who would want to see one symbol of the west in another anyway?
The reason is that the parks service has decided that since "NPS has found no direct evidence that bison were native to the Grand Canyon in the last 1000 years. In general, non-native species will not be introduced into parks, stated Joe Alston, Park Superintendent."
Then, of course, they want to sell the wayward bison for slaughter or hunting.
I guess no one in the parks service ever read Playing God in Yellowstone, about the folly of managing wildlife to the absurd standard of pre-white man.

USDA Forest Service Cathie Schmidlin 928-635-8314
Arizona Game and Fish Department Shelly Shepherd 928-214-1241
northeast Northeast - See other animals in the Northeast
Backyard Bison
Backyard Bison is a small family farm with a herd of grass-fed bison.
Farm store open Saturdays
685 Crowthers Road
Coopersburg, PA (610) 346-6640
south South - See other aninals Down South



Land Between the Lakes Elk and Bison Prairie
A piece of Land Between the Lakes became a 170,000 acre National Recreation Area in 1963. Six years later 19 buffalo were brought in from Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park in North Dakota as part of an effort to restore the prairie. Elk Island National Park in Alberta, Canada. In 1996 the Elk Island National Park in Alberta, Canada, sent 29 elk to join them.
Both animals were native to the area, but wiped out by hunting. Land Between the Lakes in turn sent elk to Cataloochee area in the North Carolina portion of the Great Smoky Mountains in 2001. The park warns that you should stay in or near your car because bison and elk sometimes charge.
Land Between the Lakes also has 150 fallow deer, the largest herd in the country. Native to Europe and Asia, the fallow deer was introduced in 1918.
In early August Land Between the Lakes has a hummingbird festival.

The Elk and Bison Prairie is near where The Trace (Rt. 453) crosses 68/80.
100 Van Morgan Drive, Golden Pond, KY (270) 924-2000
midwest Midwest - See other animals in the Midwest


The Fermi National Accelerator Labortory does serious work in high energy physics, but they also have a fun herd of about 45 bison. The first director imported the bison in 1969 as a symbol of Fermilab's connection to the prairie--whatever that may be. The lab has capacity for 70; they auction off bison when it gets too crowded. The herd is off the continuation of Batavia Road. The public can enter by car through the Batavia Road and Pine Street entrances with ID. Here's a Fermilab Map. The complex is near the Farnsworth Avenue exit off I-88.
(630) 840-3351
Guided tours (630) 840-5588.



prairie dog

wild horse

Theodore Roosevelt National Park - ND

Buffalo now roam in both the south and north units of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Once wiped out, the park took in 29 bison from the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in Nebraska in 1956 and eventually divided them among the units. Now 200-400 live in the bigger south unit and 100-300 live in the north. The park controls the population.

Bonus Species: Elk, black-tailed prairie dog, wild horses
South Unit (701) 623-4466 in Medora, just off I-94 (exits 24 & 27) and is 133 miles west of Bismarck, ND and 27 miles east of the Montana state line.
North Unit (701) 842-2333 is 16 miles south of Watford City on Hwy. 85. It's 70 miles on I-94 and 85 between units.

Blue Mounds State Park - MN
Blue Mounds State Park manages a herd of 45 - 65 bison.
Neal Smith NWR
The Neal Smith NWR is just a half hour from Des Moines. Friends of the Prairie support this recreated grassland that has a managed herd of 35 bison (since 1996) and elk (since 1998).
Prairie City, IA



Cross Ranch State Park - ND
Cross Ranch State Park has a small 75-105 herd of bison. They also get migrating bald eagles and whooping cranes.
1403 River Road, Center, ND (701)794-3731

Sandsage Bison Range - KS
The Sandsage Bison Range (AKA Finney) has a herd of about 100 bison.
You can't go into the bison areas without permission.
Call the Friends of the Sandsage Bison Range and Wildlife Area (620) 276-9400
Finney Wildlife Area, 785 South Old US Hwy 83, Garden City, KS
(620) 276-8886
Fort Robinson State Park
Nebraska calls Ft. Robinson State Park its premiere park. This historic fort saw many battles and the death of Souix Chief Crazy Horse. A herd of about 300 range here.
Bonus species:painted horse enthusiasts meet up here
3 miles W of Crawford
(308) 665-2900




bighorn sheep

Badlands and Custer Parks - SD

Custer State Park in South Dakota has a herd of 1,500 buffalo that roam throughout the park. Nearby Badlands National Park has another 400. The local concession runs Jeep tours, some with chuckwagon re-enactments, that the New York Times says the tours put visitors close to the herd.

The herd is heavily managed. Each September there's a roundup festival. The whole herd is corraled, branded and what are considered excess are auctioned off. In 2007 South Dakota sold 214 bison for about $780 each and nine burros, which go for $166.

The park also has a prairie dog town, pronghorn antelope, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, wild turkeys, and a band of friendly burros.
Peter Norbeck Center, located on Highway 16A, or at the Wildlife Station Visitor Center on the Wildlife Loop 888-875-0001

Fort Niobara NWR
Fort Niobara NWR in Nebraska near SD was started to preserve native birds, such as the Sharp-tailed grouse and greater prairie chickens, bison and elk. Between 250 and 490 buffalo wander here on 19,131 acres along the shore of the meandering Niobara River. They mate in July and August.
The NWR manages a herd of 100 elk.
Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge
Hidden Timber Route, HC 14, Box 67
Valentine, NB
(402) 376-3789



Wichita Mountains NWR
Wichita Mountains NWR has a herd of 480 - 575 bison from a herd of 15 from the New York Zoo in 1907.
Bonus species: elk, deer, coyotes, red-tailed hawks, prairie dogs

The refuge is 25 miles NW of Lawton, OK. Take 44, exit 45WOklahoma.

Maxwell State Bison Refuge - KS
About 150 bison roam the Maxwell State Game Refuge along with 50 elk.
 "Friends of Maxwell" offers guided tram rides for $8 to see the bison (620) 628-4455

Samuel H. Ordway, Jr. Memorial Bison Preserve - SD
Samuel H. Ordway, Jr. Memorial Preserve has a herd of about 250 bison. The Nature Conservancy maintains the 7,800 acres untilled acres. northern South Dakota
Sandhill Wildlife Area
The 9,000 acre Sandhill Wildlife Area has a tiny herd of 15 bison in a 260-acre enclosure along the Trumpeter Trail. The original 12 bison were donated by farmer Wallace Grange, who originally owned the land.
Wisconsin manages the herd by selling off 2-4 bison each year.
1715 Hwy X, Babcock, WI (715) 884-2437




Sullys Hill National Game Preserve - ND
Bison, elk and white-tailed deer were re-introduced to Sullys Hill in 1917 and 1918. The bison herd is kept at under 30, about the same number as the elk. Black-tailed prairie dogs were introduced in 1975. The preserve, which was originally a National Park, has an annual birding and nature festival. White pelicans are common in spring and summer. You may also see tundra swan, avocet or harrier.
Take 57 south 13 miles from Devil's Lake, ND, turn south on BIA-6. (701) 766-4272
Canada Canada -- See other animals in Canada



Elk Island National Park
Elk Island National Park has 350 original northern bison, the wood bison, as well as 450 reintroduced plains bison. Each year the park rounds up the bison to keep numbers in check.
In U.S. parks the bison deemed surplus are the unlucky ones; they are sold, slaughtered or hunted. Here the surplus bison are the fortunate ones: they are sold to private homes or shipped north to establish wild populations.
Via Highway 16 East
Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta T8L 2N7, Canada
(780) 992-2950

Wood Buffalo National Park

Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada's largest park, has the world's biggest self-regulating wild herd of buffalo: more than half of Canada's population of 10,000. That's down from 168,000 for this slightly skinny subspecies of bison, which is classified as threatened. This park is also the summer home of Whooping Cranes, but they are off limits to visitors.

You can reach the park off Highway 5 (gravel road) near Hay River, NT, from the  MacKenzie Highway.
Visitor, Fort Smith (
867) 872-7960
24 hr hotline:
(867) 872-7962
Fort Chipewyan Office / Visitor Reception Centre (
780) 697-3662

Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary
The Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary to the west of Great Slave Lake in the NW Territories has 2,000 of the huge, shaggy wood bison that once lived in the north, bred from a tiny pristine herd. (Others are reintroduced plains bison, which brought disease.)
According to GreatCanadianLakes, you might see bison on the highway that goes north from the intersection of 1 and 3 or on the Frontier Trail, from the Mackenzie River Ferry Crossing to Yellowknife.
Europe Europe - See other animals in Europe
Wisent Species Protection Center
Artenschutzzentrum Thüringen lets you see native animals and fish. They have a special project with wisent (European bison) with a small pasture with 3 animals that they hope to expand. Am Preissnitzb...
Artenschutzzentrum Thüringen lets you see native animals and fish. They have a special project with wisent (European bison) with a small pasture with 3 animals that they hope to expand.

Am Preissnitzberg 5
07389 Ranis, German
Bison Europe
Bison Europe is working to keep the last remaining wisent (the smaller European species of bison) alive. The last wild stock was in the Polish forest of Bialowieza. Since 1922 biologists have breeding them so they don't go extinct. A foot and mouth outbreak showed the danger of keeping them in one spot. So Bison Europe started in 1991.
Now you can see them on foot or by a sled or wagon pulled by horses. The bison-keepers admire the understanding between bison and horses, so they think it's a great way for people to respectfully visit the bison.
Les Bisons d'Europe
 04 66 31 40 40
Bialowieza Forest - Poland and Belarus
The ancient Bialowieza Forest is the only place where wild horses and bison managed to survive in Europe. Descendants of the Tarpans became the Koniks, seen in wildlife ranges across the continent.
One of the two subspecies of the European bison (bison bison bonasus) got help surviving: from the 16th century this has been some kind of reserve for hunting by Polish and Russian royalty. Only 17 bison survived WWII, all on the Polish side.
The forest now straddles the Poland-Belarus border, with a park on each side. You need a guide to visit the Polish side and the park offers rooms for about $50 a night.
Poland: Bialowieza National Park  Białowieskim Parku Narodowym
Belarus: Belovezhskaya Pushcha


deer or elk

Saarbrucken Wildpark
The Saarbrucken Wildpark is a fun mix of native wild animals like wild boar, fallow deer, red deer and wisent, along with some domestic species like goats. The wisent (Bison bonsasus a smaller, endangered European version of the bison) are breeding and there are young ones.
Die Wildpark in Saarbrucken started in 1929 and was recently updated. It's free, you can feed the animals or just go for a long walk in the pleasant woods.
Germans tend to think of wildparks as for kids, but Americans will be fascinated.

Stuhlsatzenhausweg 49, 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany



How is this animal doing?
Best Locations List
Buffalo Field Campaign
National Bison Association
Canadian Bison Association
Intertribal Bison Cooperative
Alaska Fish and Game: Wood Bison
Defenders of Wildlife
American Prairie Foundation
The Grassland Foundation
The Nature Conservancy
World Wildlife Fund-US
Humane Society of the United States
National Wildlife Federation
bison reading
Buffalo Hazing and Slaughter at Yellowstone
Wood Bison In Canada
Where the Buffalo Roam - and Die







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