How Long Do Bison Live In The Wild?


How Long Do Bison Live In The Wild?

One of the biggest land animals in the world is the bison. As a result, you can anticipate them living a long time. How long do bison live, though?

The lifespan of a wild bison ranges from 10 to 20 years. Bison lose over 40% of their lives in the first year of life. A bison’s lifespan is influenced by its health, environment, predators, and food supply.

Continue reading if you want to learn more about the difficulties that bison must overcome in order to survive. Everything you need to know about the lifespan of bison in the wild is included in this guide.

Let’s start.

How long do bison live in the wild?

Despite their challenges, bison are strong creatures that can endure for a very long time. Bison can live up to 28 years old in some cases.

However, not all bison will live into their twenties just because a vison can. Unfortunately, bison can lose up to 40% of their lives before they turn a year old. They are considerably more susceptible at this point to the harsh realities of life in the outdoors.

When bison reach adulthood, they are incredibly tough. Because of this, adult bison often range in age from 15 to 20 years old.

Three distinct subspecies of bison, all of which are found around the world and have comparable survival rates, have been recognized.

Let’s examine the elements that influence a bison’s ability to endure in the wild.

How do Bison die?

1. Starvation

Bison struggle to find enough food to support their enormous girth. They require up to 24 pounds of food every day. They risk starvation if they can’t get enough food, becoming emaciated.

The main component of the bison’s diet is grasses. The deep winter snow, however, can make it more difficult to find these. In that situation, they will consume additional foods like fungus, grains, and woody vegetation.

The ability of bison to survive in environments with limited wintertime food supplies is impressive. They accumulate fat and require days to digest food. They can live on less thanks to this.

These safety precautions, however, have a limited lifespan. The bison will swiftly deplete their fat reserves, become weak, and vulnerable if they can’t eventually find food.

Additionally, because bison typically roam in herds, it is necessary for them to feed several animals rather than just one. That’s a lot of competition for a small amount of food.

Female bison are particularly vulnerable to starvation. If malnourished, individuals are more likely to experience infertility or miscarriage.

If a multiple birth occurs, baby bison are also at risk of malnutrition. Due to their low milk production, female bison frequently have to leave one calf behind to secure the survival of at least one. A young bison left alone will starve to death.

2. Predators

Even though bison are enormous creatures, some other large animals still prey on them. One of the main dangers to the weakest members of the bison herds is predators.

Common predators of bison include:

  • Wolves
  • Coyotes
  • Bears
  • Cougars
  • Grizzly bears

Adult bison are the ones who provide protection for the remainder of the herd since they are difficult to kill.

As you might anticipate, a hungry predator will typically prey on the weakest members of the herd. This applies to all bison, regardless of age, health, or injury.

A little baby or young bison will often be considerably easier to kill for predators than an adult bison. The advantages of size and weight favor the males. However, if a female bison has a newborn bison to defend, she may become very hostile.

Bison calves will remain with their mother in a herd until they are about 2-3 years old. The young bison are extremely vulnerable as prey, thus the entire herd guards them aggressively.

Additionally, hunters are another type of human predator that bison must deal with. Bison are hunted for their flesh, fur, sport, and trophies.

Although hunting wild bison is permitted, a special authorization is needed. Due to conservation measures to boost bison numbers, a small number of licences to kill bison are given out each year. To get around this, big-game hunters frequently hire private ranches that produce bison for their kill.

Native American Indian culture continues to be heavily influenced by bison hunting. If bison are killed on Indian reservation territory, no permits are needed.

3. Disease

The general state of bison health is one of the biggest threats to their survival. They spread illness and parasites quickly through close contact since they are herd animals. This makes them susceptible to infections, which can lead to ill health and even death.

The following illnesses are frequently found in bison:

  • Brucellosis
  • a cancerous catarrhal fever (MCF)
  • Johne’s illness
  • Calf distress
  • Viral Diarrhea in Bovines (BVD)
  • infectious hemoglobinuria
  • Anaplasmosis

These illnesses frequently result in problems including weight loss and impaired nutrient absorption from food. The majority of bison with these diseases die from the infection if untreated.

Even if the illness doesn’t really kill the bison, it can leave them too feeble to hunt or defend themselves from predators. Infections like Brucellosis frequently affect women’s capacity to maintain a healthy pregnancy.

Large parks like Yellowstone frequently immunize their bison populations against some of these diseases. This prevents the bison from dispersing it among the local herd or transmitting it to the park’s cattle.

4. Injury

Injury can significantly reduce a bison’s chance of surviving in the wild. If a wounded bison can’t escape predators, obtain food, or get sick, it will die.

Bison are much more likely to sustain injuries when they contact with people more closely. Vehicle crashes are a frequent reason why bison suffer injuries. The problem is frequently encountered on roads in national parks where bison can easily cross in front of a moving vehicle.

Even if a car accident does not result in a bison’s death, it almost certainly results in injuries. This could be the result of internal damage, significant open wounds, or fractured bones.

When bison try to fend off predators, they may potentially get hurt. The creatures that attack bison have strong jaws and fangs, keen claws, and sharp teeth that will seriously hurt them.

5. Climate

Most bison are found in temperate regions with hot summers and arctic winters. Only in the northern hemisphere do bison exist.

They have evolved as a species to withstand the cold. They are among the most resilient creatures in the world due to their ability to survive freezing snowstorms. They can survive in snowy circumstances without shelter thanks to their enormous size, plentiful fat stores, strong hides, and furs.

Young bison often struggle to survive winter exposure. Many juvenile bison cannot survive their first winter because they are unable to handle the extreme cold.

If adult bison are unable to accumulate significant amounts of fat during the hot months, they may potentially be more vulnerable to the hard winters. This is frequently caused by inadequate dietary intake or illnesses that make it difficult for them to obtain nutrients from food.

The bison’s capacity to obtain nutrient-dense forage is being impacted by climate change. Less nitrogen-rich grasses are produced in warmer regions, which may eventually affect the weight of the bison.

Parasites may also be more prevalent in bison during hot weather. Bison can become infected with diseases and have bad health as a result of flea and tick infestations.

How Long do bison live in captivity?

In captivity, bison can live for up to 25 years. However, how long they remain in captivity will depend on why they are there.

Bison are frequently raised in captivity for food or for hunting. These bison won’t have the opportunity to live for more than 25 years. Typically, bison raised for meat are killed between the ages of 2-3. On hunting ranches, animals are frequently killed between 1.5 and 2 years of age.

Zoos can house bison for a considerable amount of time. The majority of the danger they face in the outdoors is shielded from them. They will be treated for illness and injuries, have a consistent supply of food, and no predators exist.

The enormous amount of room moose require to roam and graze poses one of the largest obstacles to keeping them in captivity.

Final Thoughts

Wild bison often live between 10 and 20 years. However, the majority of bison perish within the first year of life. Predators, illness, or exposure to the cold are frequently to blame for this.

Although adult bison are exceedingly hardy, they are nonetheless susceptible to illness, injury, and famine. Adult bison are impacted by humans through hunting or car incidents.

Despite being raised in confinement, bison are sometimes exterminated within the first three years for meat or large game hunting. Conservationists must provide for the populations in order to secure their survival. At the moment, this is carried out by vigilant observation in national parks.


Are bison friendly to humans?

The bison are not amicable. They might come over to you since they are curious and used to seeing people. Do not mistake their interest for love.

What kills a bison?

Two to three hours after birth, calves can keep up with the herd and are properly looked after by their moms and other herd members. However, bison calves can be killed by wolves and grizzly bears. Which predators prey on adult bison? A: Adult bison can be killed by wolves and grizzly bears.

Are there any 100% bison left?

According to one research, there were approximately 250 Canadian bison living in five private herds, including wood bison, and 100 American bison descended from plains stock. However, restoration efforts were successful, and there are currently roughly 11,000 bison in the nation that are genetically unmixed.

Are bison safe to be around?

You are too close and should gradually back away if a bison notices you and stops what it is doing to look at you. Wait for a bison in the center of the road to pass. Refrain from exiting your car. Feel free to pass a bison that is at the side of the road slowly.

What eats a bison?

Due of their size, bison are rarely preyed upon. Humans, grey wolves, cougars, grizzly bears, and coyotes are five significant exceptions.


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Sarah Green

Wildlife and Nature Fan & Author