Where Do Bison Live?


The American national mammal, the bison, is a huge, recognizable animal. But are bison exclusive to North America? You genuinely want to know where bison reside.

Large grasslands, plains, and valleys can be found in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Northern Europe, and Russia, where bison can be found. To carefully monitor their population size, they are primarily found in national parks as conservation herds. To conveniently access meadows and woodlands for food, bison want to stay close by.

Continue reading if you want to learn where bison reside. You will learn everything you need to know about the bison habitat from this guide. We’ll also talk about their geographic location.

Let’s begin.

Where Do Bison Live in the wild?

The habitats where bison choose to reside are those that provide them with all of their needs. You can better comprehend why bison chose to live where they do by becoming familiar with their daily routine.

Food and water

A bison, which is a massive animal, need a lot of food to survive. For bison, a close food source is necessary because they require a large amount of food each day.

The main component of the bison’s diet is grasses. This explains why bison choose living in wide, open grasslands. When grass sources are few, they also consume several other types of vegetation. This species frequently found close to wooded areas.

Water is crucial to bison as well. One bison is thought to require about 8 gallons (30 liters) of water every day. Bison drink from transient water sources like sizable puddles left behind by rain. Their grazing period is impacted by traveling to freshwater sources if none are close by. Snow provides a source of water for bison throughout the winter.


Bison are herd-living, gregarious creatures. The herd can range in size from about 20 animals in the winter to 1,000 animals during the mating season.

Just consider the area needed for 1,000 bison!

Every day, bison will go up to two miles to forage. For this reason, expansive prairies and grasslands are preferred so that there is space for everyone to graze and rest.

What kind of shelter do bison need?

In the wild, bison don’t require any form of external housing. They will simply wait out the storm by staying inside in the chilly conditions, sometimes even facing the storm directly.

Even though they don’t require shelter, bison may linger near a forest or in a valley in inclement weather. These natural barriers provide protection from inclement weather including snow, winds, and rain.

Given that most creatures require refuge from the elements or even predators, this is a really unique characteristic. Bison are incredible creatures because of how well they have evolved to live without shelter.

They can withstand even the worst weather thanks to their big bodies, fat layers, and thick coats. Additionally, they don’t need to worry too much about predators because their bulk and the protection of their herd will keep them safe.

It would also be challenging to locate a natural area of cover big enough to accommodate a herd of bison.

Where do bison live in the world?

Native to North America, Europe, and Canada is the bison.

Let’s examine each region’s bison range.

Where Do Bison Live?

Where do Bison live in the US?

In the United States, there is only one bison subspecies. This is a plains bison, also referred to as an American bison or just a bison. In many regions of the USA, they are also called “buffalo,” however this is not to be confused with water buffalo.

The majority of wild bison now only inhabit national parks spread across the USA. Although there are bison ranches on private land, these animals are not thought of as domesticated.

Since bison continue to play a significant role in Native American culture, bison herds can also be found on reservations.

Even though the population is much smaller than it once was, bison can still be found in all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii.

The state having the largest bison numbers is South Dakota. The populations of Nebraska, Montana, Colorado, and Oklahoma are also substantial. In actuality, Oklahoma’s state animal is the bison.

There are a number of US states where plains bison have been introduced. Alaska, Hawaii, and the Catalina Islands in California are included in this.

In Alaska, a few wood bison are being introduced to their natural habitat.

Where to see Bison in the USA

There are many locations in the United States where bison can be found. Here is a list of well-known areas where sizable wild herds roam freely.

IdahoNational Park of Yellowstone
MontanaNational Park of YellowstoneReserve for American PrairieBison National Range
WyomingNational Park of Yellowstone
UtahHenry MountainsAntelope Island State Park
CaliforniaIsla Catalina
ArizonaNational Park of the Grand Canyon
Dakota, SouthNational Park of Wind Cave Custer State Park Badlands National Park Indian Reservation of the Rosebud Sioux Reservation at Standing Rock
ColoradoGenesee Park’s Heartland Ranch Nature Preserve
NebraskaFort Robinson State Park and Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge
North MexicoRanch at Vermejo Park
TexasLyndon B. Johnson State Park, Caprock Canyons State Park
Dakotas, NorthStanding Rock Reservation in Theodore Roosevelt National Park
KansasNational Preserve of Tallgrass Prairie, Maxwell Wildlife Refuge
HawaiiBison Ranch in Hanalei
AlaskaBison range at Delta Junction Center for Alaska Wildlife Conservation

Where do bison live in Mexico?

The majority of the central and eastern United States, as well as down into Mexico, were covered by bison hundreds of years ago. Numerous subspecies went extinct as a result of overhunting, leaving only the plains bison species in the United States.

There are now three healthy bison herds in Mexico. For more than a century, the Janos-Hidalgo bison herd has traveled back and forth between the US and Mexico.

Bison are being reintroduced to Mexico by conservationists. 2009 saw the transfer of 23 bison from the South Dakota wind cave herd to the Janos Biosphere Reserve. The New Janos Reserve Herd is the name given to this herd. In 2017, 138 bison were thought to make up their population.

2020 saw the transfer of 19 bison from the Janos reserve to the Maderas del Carmen reserve. This has aided in the growth of Mexico’s wild bison population.

Where do bison live in Canada?

Canada is home to two bison subspecies, the plains bison and the wood bison, unlike the United States (bison athabascae).

Following extinction from hunting in the late 1800s, there were no more wild bison in Canada. Since 1905, they have been gradually restored to the region as part of conservation efforts.

Currently, bison can be found in the following Canadian regions:

  • Canadian Columbia
  • Yukon
  • Territory of the Northwest
  • Alberta
  • Saskatchewan
  • Manitoba

The Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta and the Northwest Territories is home to the majority of Canada’s bison. Despite the fact that the bison is the province of Manitoba’s national animal.

There are about 2200 wild plains bison in Canada. At 7,000–12,000, the wood bison population in Canada is thought to be 3-5 times bigger.

Where to see Bison in Canada

In Canada, enormous bison herds are maintained on commercial ranches. Numerous national parks across the nation have bison roaming free. The parks below are some of the most popular places to see bison herds on the move.

Canadian ColumbiaLiard Hot Springs River
YukonNational Park of Kluane, Alaska Highway
Territory of the NorthwestNational Wood Buffalo ParkReserve of the Nahanni National Park
AlbertaNational Wood Buffalo ParkPark Nationale d’Elk
SaskatchewanPark National Prince Albert
ManitobaMountain Riding National Park

Where do bison live in Europe?

There is a distinct bison subspecies that is indigenous to Europe. The European bison, or bison bonasus, is this animal. In several regions of Europe, bison are also known as wisents.

The European bison formerly inhabited most of mainland Europe and migrated into Asia, much like people in the USA. Because of excessive hunting in the 19th century, most bison became extinct.

The sole surviving subspecies is bonasus. Through conservation efforts over the past few decades, they have gone from being considered endangered to being in danger.

To help safeguard the animal, the majority of European bison are found in sizable national parks.

The greatest bison population in Europe is found in Poland. A sizeable bison population can be found in Belarus. As a result, Belarus’ national animal is the bison.

In the nearby Biaowiea National Park, which borders Poland and Belarus, one can find the largest population of European bison.

There are more than 100 wild European bison living in nine additional nations on European soil. The table below explains where you can find them.

There are a few additional European nations where bison can be found, although their populations there are only in the single or double digits. In order to eventually boost the number of bison in the wild, a few of these nations are embarking on captive breeding projects for the animals.

There are smaller bison populations in:

  • Austria
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hungry
  • Moldova
  • Netherlands
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • Italy

Where to see Bison in Europe

Several bison can be found grazing freely throughout Europe. In order to support the population growth, other herds are controlled in national parks. These are a few locations in Europe where you can view bison herds.

BulgariaVoden Rhodope Mountains
BelarusBelarusskaya PushchaEnterprise for forestry in Osipovichicooperative for agricultural production in OzeryKrasny Bor enterprise for huntingPolesie State Environmental and Radiation Reserve
Prague RepublicNature preserve of RalskoGame reserve in Zidlov
DenmarkIsland of Bornholm
LithuaniaForest of Pailiai
PolandNational Park of Bialowieza
RomaniaReserve Natural Area of Valea ZimbrilorNatural Park of Vânători-NeamţMountains in Arcu Mountains of PoianaRuscă Bison Nature Reserve in Haţeg
RussiaNature preserve in Kaluzhskiye Zasekipark in Orlovskoye Polesye Bryansky Les National Park National Park of Ugra
SlovakiaReserve for Topoianky Bison
SwedenPark Avesta Bison
UkraineNational Park of Skolovski Beskydy

What climate do Bison live in?

In the northern hemisphere, bison thrive in temperate regions. They can endure both sweltering summers and bitterly frigid winters.

Bison have successfully adapted to life in the frigid northern reaches of North America and Europe. They don’t even notice the effects of the cold until it reaches -40°F (-40°C).

Plains bison are native to warmer regions, whilst wood bison are found in colder areas. Despite being introduced to colder climates like Alaska, Plains bison have thrived in them.

By removing debris from the ground with their massive heads, bison can still find food in conditions of heavy snowfall. To live in frigid areas, they also have vast fat reserves and a thick coat.

By shedding their coats and finding refuge in bodies of water, bison can withstand the hot summers. In order to locate a climate that best meets their needs for food and water supplies, bison migrate during the seasons.

Where do bison live in winter?

Since bison can readily survive in the cold, they don’t hibernate throughout the winter. Although they do travel a distance of about 70 miles between their summer and winter ranges

The winter range of the bison is in lower elevations rather than the warmer south. Since the snow isn’t as deep there, they are better protected. Additionally, they pick a location where there is an abundance of grass from autumn growth.

For bison, deep snow can be hazardous. For the bison, moving through the heavy snow can make it challenging to flee ravenous predators like wolves. Additionally, they will use a lot of energy trying to shift a sizable snow area in order to reach the grass underneath.

Do bison live in forests?

Plains and wood bison primarily inhabit grasslands, not forests. Despite the fact that occasionally they move through wooded regions within their range.

Final Thoughts

Large creatures known as bison can be found in both the Americas and Europe. However, compared to before the late 19th-century overhunting, their populations are a tiny fraction of what they once were.

European bison can be found in huge numbers in forested settings, but American bison prefer to live in plains.

As highly gregarious animals, bison like to live in herds. This means that in order to stay healthy and thrive, they require a lot of food and space. Large parklands in the USA, Canada, Mexico, and Europe have worked to increase and preserve the bison population in these regions.