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Lewis and Clark in North Dakota:
Wildlife Then & Now

Mammals


Buffaloe (Buffalo) Past Buffalo Distribution Map for North Dakota
Key to Maps

Buffaloe (Bison)

While passing through the Dakotas and Montana, Lewis and Clark saw bison in such numbers that they could only guess as to the size of herds. Based upon journals of other explorers and fur traders, bison were abundant across the state with relatively higher numbers in the west as compared to the east. A growing market for robes and the increased use of rifles in the 1820s set the stage for the decline in bison numbers. The rate of decline increased rapidly between 1860 and 1880. The introduction of cattle, and their associated diseases, may have also played a role in this decline. In 1884 the last North Dakota bison was killed south of Dickinson.

Bison may now be viewed at Sullys Hill Game Preserve near Devils Lake, the Dakota Zoo in Bismarck, and both units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Additionally, dozens of private ranchers have now incorporated bison into their ranching operations.


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