Red, White, and Bison: This Iconic Animal Should be Named the National Mammal of the United States

American bison in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Photo by Jeff Burrell ©WCS.

By John Calvelli

[Note: This is the sixth in a series of blogs by Calvelli celebrating the history and conservation of the American Bison.]

This weekend, Americans will spend the 4th of July thinking of the things that make the United States great. Of course, that means independence and freedom, and probably barbecues and fireworks as well. But another of those quintessentially great things about America is the bison, an animal that has for too long gone unrecognized as the national icon that it is.

Bison – our largest land mammal – have unparalleled historical, cultural, economic, and ecological significance to the U.S.

American bison in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Photo by Jeff Burrell ©WCS.

Once ranging from Oregon to New Jersey and Alaska to Mexico, bison herds inspired awe in western explorers, were integrally linked with the economic, physical, and spiritual lives of Native Americans, and are a symbol of America’s history. As WCS (the Wildlife Conservation Society) works to restore bison in its historic range, we can also appreciate everything it contributes to today’s society.

Also known as buffalo, we recognize these magnificent animals from childhood stories tracing the settlement of the American West. We remember them from paintings by artists like James Perry Wilson, who captured bison herds in the Great Plains for dioramas featured in the American Museum of Natural History.

Recognizing the bison’s remarkable history on our continent, Democratic and Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation on June 29 to officially recognize bison as the national mammal of the United States.

American bison bulls grazing by the river at Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS.

The bipartisan National Bison Legacy Act, led by Reps. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Kristi Noem (R-SD) and José Serrano (D-NY), acknowledges the cultural, economic, —> Read More