Hunted almost to the brink of extinction into the early 20th century, the American Bison has achieved a stunning turnaround, but there is an enormous amount of work left to do.
Pushed to the brink
As a keystone species, bison affect the distribution and reproduction of prairie vegetation, aerate soil with their hooves, and create wallows that can sustain ecosystems of their own during wet seasons. While bison originally numbered in the tens of millions, demand for bison hides and materials in the east, combined with the easy transport afforded by the railroad, the population was decimated.
But there’s hope.
Since the late 20th century, conservation efforts have helped the bison population rebound to 500,000 animals. However, only around 30,000 are in conservation herds; the rest are livestock. While livestock bison have provided invaluable contributions to the species’ survival, conservation herds present the purest opportunity to return bison to the expanses, and Grasslands Unlimited hopes to restore the bison to its native grasslands across Colorado and beyond.See What We're Doing