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Wildlife Refuge

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Bison
Largest of the land animals in North America, the bison normally lives 15-20 years, but may live up to 40 years.  Both the cows and bulls have short, curved horns.  Full growth - 2,000 pounds or more for a bull and 1,300 for a cow - is usually reached in 7-8 years.  A deceptively quick and agile animal, the buffalo can stop instantly, whirl, and gallop up to 35 mph over rough terrain.

For thousands of years, vast herds of bison once thundered across the Great Plains. An estimated 60 - 70 million plains bison roamed North America in 1700; by 1900, only a few hundred were left. 

The buffalo's return is a fascinating story. Among the first to take action against the imminent demise of these majestic animals are the very people who once made a living hunting them -- people like Daniel Boone, who as early as 1775 introduced a bill to restrict hunting in Boonesborough, so alarmed was he at the quickly diminishing game. Others tried to domesticate the wild cattle, or cross-breed them with oxen.

Today's bison herds, including the animals at LBL, can trace their origins to a later group of "preservationists." Buffalo hunters such as Charles Goodnight, Wild Bill Hickok and Charles Jesse "Buffalo" Jones, to name a few, were famous for slaughtering hundreds of bison a day. Even so, by the late 1800s, such men had become alarmed at the near-extinction of this symbol of America's frontier, and began developing small captive herds to protect against extinction. Herds seen today are descendants of these animals.

Today, such conservation efforts and the rise of a buffalo ranching industry has brought their numbers back up to an estimated 100,000 in the U.S. alone. LBL 's buffalo herd was started in 1969 with 19 animals brought from the Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park in North Dakota.

The idea was to establish a small herd as a symbol of man's destruction and later restoration of the Tennessee Valley's natural resources.

For over 20 years this herd flourished in LBL's Buffalo Range. Then in June, 1996, 40 animals were moved into the new Elk & Bison Prairie, where they continue to thrive.

MORE Bison Pictures

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