Arizona's Largest Mammal
The American bison, also called buffalo, is North
America's largest native land mammal. Well-known
residents of the Great Plains states, they historically
ranged in northern Arizona as well. Bison inhabit
Arizona today because of the efforts of Charles
"Buffalo" Jones. Jones was a hunter who took his
share of bison, but he soon realized the massive
mammals would disappear unless something was
done to preserve them.
In 1905, Jones shipped and then herded 30-40 bison from
the Texas panahndle to an area north of the Grand Canyon
on the Kaibab Plateau. One year later, the area became the
Grand Canyon Game Preserve. Jones soon added another
87 buffalo to the herd. In 1909, he rounded up his
straying herd and drove them to Utah. A handful of
strays were left behind with Jones' good friend Jimmy
Owens and the Grand Canyon Cattle Company. In
1927, Owens sold 98 buffalo to the state of Arizona for
$10,000. It is from these animals that today's House Rock
Wildlife Area and Raymond Ranch Wildlife Area herds
The Arizona Game and Fish Department manages bison in this state. Arizona's two herds provide wildlife watching
opportunitie for residents and visitors alike. The department also allows a specific member of surplus animals to be hunted in
each herd, helping the department to manage and maintain a healthy bison population. Because of inaccessibility of difficulty
of terrain, some these hunts are well-known as being a challenge.
A full-grown bull stands six feet tall and can weight more than one ton. Adult cows weigh
about 1,200 pounds. Bison can eat up to 35 pounds of vegetation a day, and can live up to
30 years in the wild. Cows give birth to single calves about two out of every three years.
Most bison calves are born in May and typically weigh pounds.
To distinguish between males and female, look at the shape and size of
the horns and head. A bull typically will have a block head covered with
thick, curly hair and heavy horns that are larger at the base. Their horns
may appear squared and similar to upside down ice cream cones. Cows
have smaller, narrow heads, and while the horns may be more curved
than a bull, they are not as heavy at the base.
Did You Know?
-Bison can run much faster than a person and are capable of jumping six
-Bison are viewed best in July and August, during their breeding season. In
fall and winter, they prefer dense stands of pinyon and juniper.
-The department manages bison in two locations in Arizona - the Raymond Ranch Wildlife Area, 35 miles east of Flagstaff on the the Buffalo Ranch exit off
I-40, and the House Rock Wildlife Area, located 20 miles south of U.S. 89A
and west of Marble Canyon.