Montana Public Radio

Bison May Become National Mammal

Apr 25, 2016

A bill that would make the American bison the “national mammal” is making its way through the U.S. Congress with rare bi-partisan support.

Bison once roamed across the continent with wooly mammoths and giant sloths. But while those and many other large mammals died off more than ten thousand years ago, bison persisted. Keith Aune of the Wildlife Conservation Society says that’s just one reason why bison are the best candidate to become the country’s first national mammal.

“It's a long-standing survivor. And that's something we can all value is resilience,” Aune said.

The Wildlife Conservation Society and the Intertribal Buffalo Council started the national mammal campaign five years ago. Now, a coalition of more than 60 groups is backing the bill.

Ervin Carlson is the president of the Intertribal Buffalo Council. He says the bill honors the bison’s history and provides symbolic support for its future.

“I do believe that they do have a future here,” Carlson said. “They do belong here. And that’s who we stand for, is them. And they stand for us.”

Carlson is also the director of the Blackfeet Tribe’s buffalo program, which is bringing more wild bison to tribal lands. Dubbed the National Bison Legacy Act, the bill was passed unanimously in the Senate. The House is set to vote this week.

If the bill passes it would also designate the first Saturday in November as National Bison Day. This day was selected in order to celebrate bison as part of Native American month, and at a time when kids are in school.