Wood Bison

Topics: Extinction, Endangered species, Species Pages: 2 (583 words) Published: March 11, 2002
The Wood Bison are the largest native land mammals in North America. The wood bison were designated as an endangered species in 1978.
Wood Bison are dark brown terrestrial mammals. They feature very massive heads. They have a shaggy brown coat with long, thick, black beards. Males have short black horns, which curve inward, while females have straight horns. These bison have very large shoulders and a massive hump on their backs. Males are larger than females and measure about 3 to 4 meters long and 1.75 meters high at the shoulders. They weigh between 500 and 1000 kilograms. They are very distinctive animals, capable of running at speeds up to 35 mph.

Wood bison reach their sexual maturity somewhere between the ages of one and three years old. The gestational period for these animals is about 270 to 300 days. The females usually give birth twice over a three-year period and bear only single calves, generally in the month of May. Twins are rare for the wood bison. Calves are weaned at about 7 months, but are able to graze with the herds from the time they are a week old.

Wood bison spend much of their time grazing. They enjoy a diet of wild oats, rye, and wheat, lichens, horsetails and berries. They swallow their food unchewed and when they rest later in the day, they bring up this unchewed food, called cud, and chew it.

The main enemies of the wood bison are the wolf, coyote, and grizzly bear. Of course, their main enemy is man! This breed has also had numerous problems with disease. Anthrax was a major problem for these animals before 1978. They have also had problems with tuberculosis. Another kind of threat is from drowning. It is not uncommon for several hundred animals to drown by falling through thin ice.

The wood bison was never an organism with an extremely large population. In the 1800's, it was estimated that the population was at about 168,000 animals. They were almost hunted to extinction in the 19th century. In...
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