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Bison live in small herds of approximately 50 animals. The herd provides defense against predators, such as wolves and coyotes. Although the bison's senses of smell and hearing are sharp, its vision is poor. Since bison often do not recognize danger until it is too late to flee, the females will surround their young and the bulls will in turn surround females, shielding them from their attackers.
Bison spend most of the day grazing in small groups. But where the grazing is particularly good, and during the two annual migrations, hundreds of bison may gather together to feed. They also take frequent mud or dust baths to keep clean.
The bison feeds mainly on grass and other succulent vegetation. Methodical grazers, a herd can cover up to two miles a day in search of fresh grass. Food is chewed and swallowed, then regurgitated and chewed again. This method of digestion is known as rumination, but it is commonly known as chewing cud.
Did you know?
- Some North American Indian tribes relied almost entirely on bison for their food and clothing.
- In the United States, the bison is more often called the buffalo, although it is not closely related to the true buffalo of Africa. Zoologists prefer the term bison.
- The only place in the United States where the bison has never been driven out of its range is Yellowstone National Park.