May 12, 2016

Bison named America's national mammal

Wyoming has long held the bison in high esteem — featuring the animal on the Cowboy State’s flag and making it the official state mammal in 1985. Now, the rest of the country is following suit.

On Monday, President Barack Obama signed legislation designating the bison as America’s official national mammal.

Lawmakers who spearheaded the effort said the animal — once nearly extinct — deserves an elevated stature because of its cultural and economic significance in the United States’ history, The Associated Press reported.

A bison herd roams Yellowstone's Lamar Valley in 2015. Photo courtesy Neal Herbert, National Park Service

Today, an estimated 30,000 wild buffalo live in America, with the largest population in Yellowstone National Park, according to the AP.

“Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times,” the National Park Service says.

Before the mid-1800s, more than 30 million bison roamed around North America, with most living on the Great Plains, according to the Park Service.

Advocates of the legislation believe the new recognition of the bison will elevate the stature of bison to that of the bald eagle — America’s national emblem — in hopes of bringing greater attention to ongoing recovery efforts, the AP reported.

“I hope that in my lifetime, thanks to a broad coalition of ranchers, wildlife advocates and tribal nations, we will see bison return to the prominent place they once occupied in our nation's shortgrass prairies,” said Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, who worked with Republican Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota to pass the Senate version of the legislation.

~Tessa Schweigert contributed reporting


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