One Million Bison | Living the Country Life

One Million Bison

Efforts are underway to bring herd numbers to one-million

Bison in North America were on the verge of extinction in the 1880’s with less than 700 animals. Since then, their numbers have steadily recovered to about 400-thousand today. The popularity of bison meat has also been growing and there isn’t enough to meet the demand. A campaign called “Bison One Million” has been launched to restore their numbers even higher.

Dave Carter is the executive director of the National Bison Association. He says it has to be a coordinated effort among all stakeholders. Farms, ranches, tribal communities, and conservation programs throughout North America are being encouraged to build their herds to reach that goal.

"We’ve had people say well gosh, the bison business is so profitable right now, why do you want to grow the herds, let’s not flood the market. The average person in the U.S. eats 50 lbs. of beef a year. But we figured it out and the average person in the U.S. eats 0.08 lbs. of bison per year," he says. "So, if we tripled the size of our business, we’d have enough out there for everybody to have a quarter-pounder once a year."

Carter says getting the bison population to one-million isn’t going to happen overnight.

"It’s all going to go by the biology of the animal. This is probably a decade or more, because we want to make sure that not only are we growing, but we’re doing it right. A lot of people are embracing bison meat because we haven’t tinkered with the animal to make it grow quicker than Mother Nature intended," says Carter. "So, we want to make sure that in the drive to push for a million, we’re not doing what some people would call ‘killing the hump and building the rump’. We want to make sure that we respect the animal, so it’s a long process."

Calculations by some private herd managers estimate that with optimal conditions, the bison herds could expand at a rate of 20% per year.

Learn more about the bison one-million campaign

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