bison

Iconic Symbol of ConservationBison: New National Mammal?

December 15, 2015

Recently, the government is moving forward on legislation to make the bison a national mammal. With a rich history in conservation success, and strong American culture ties; bison strongly emulate the spirit of the United States.

In the 17th century,  bison were the most abundant mammal found across North America, but in the late 1800s, fewer than 1,000 were left. This propelled government and other officials to take action. In the early 1900’s, pioneering conservationists, Theodore Roosevelt and others launched the American Bison Society (ABS), a national campaign to create wild bison reserves. Through this program and by raising awareness about this vital animal, Bison were able to rebound from the brink of near extinction.

About Bison at the Virginia Zoo

The bison at the Zoo are named are Oakley and Lily. Oakley was born on 5/24/98 and Lily was born on 6/5/98. We acquired both of them from Lehigh Valley Zoo on 11/2/00. Lily is a little smaller than Oakley and is missing both of her horn sheaths. Oakley is the dominant animal which means she usually shifts first and eats first.

Bison are herd animals that live in the Great Plains of North America. They can run at 35 miles per hour. They are considered the largest land mammal in North America. American Bison lifespan in the wild is 12-20 years. They are herbivores. In the wild they eat grasses, shrubs, and leaves. Here at the zoo they eat herbivore grain, Timothy hay, and a variety of browse that our horticulture department provides for them. They are ruminants, which means they have a four chambered stomach. They chew their food, it goes to part of their stomach, then they regurgitate it and chew it again as “cud”, it then goes back down to their stomach to be further digested. Some other ruminants at the zoo include, Giraffe, Eastern Bongo, and Cows. They get a thick winter coat and shed it off in spring. We provide them with 2 street sweeper brushes that hang on their fence to help them shed.