July is National Bison Month – an opportunity to celebrate these large, beautiful creatures. In 2016, the American bison was named the national mammal of the U.S. While we are lucky enough to now have thousands of bison roaming North America, this wasn’t always the case, and the species represents a true comeback story, embedded with history, culture and conservation.
200 years ago, an estimated 30 to 60 million bison existed, but by the late 1800s, the American bison was on the verge of extinction. Less than 1,000 bison remained after the destructive impact of hunting and habitat loss. It was the settlers who began moving into Native American land during this time that slaughtered millions of bison for food and sport. The settlers also cleared the land for their own livestock and farms, taking away from the bison’s habitat. The species’ demise was quick and disastrous. Not only did it effect the ecosystem, but it deprived Native Americans of their most important natural asset.
Thankfully, in 1905, American zoologist William Hornaday worked with President Theodore Roosevelt and others to form the American Bison Society to help save bison from extinction – the first national effort to save an American wildlife species. Hornaday rallied conservationists, politicians and ranchers to double their conservation efforts, and National Parks, such as Yellowstone National Park, took measures to protect their remaining bison. Zoos also played a major role in restoring the number of bison, and approximately 500,000 now reside in zoos, preserves and protected parklands. Around 30,000 live on public lands which includes environmental and government preserves.
The population of bison is nowhere near where it used to be, but it has stabled, and the species is now listed as threatened instead of endangered. The bison – an icon of American history – is a conservation success story, representing how we can pull endangered and disappearing species back from the brink. Recognizing the bison as the national mammal of the U.S. conveys a vision of shared values of unity, resilience, and healthy landscapes and communities.
Our fervent wish to protect and preserve Earth’s magnificent animals, such as the bison, was the driving force behind American Humane’s feature documentary, Escape From Extinction. Built on the knowledge, humane work and experience gained over more than 100 years, we seek to introduce a new generation to the remarkable and endangered animals with whom we share the Earth and rally the peoples of the world to protect and preserve them.
The making of this 90-minute film took many years, passion and tens of thousands of miles of travel. Join us in a quest to – quite literally – save the world and watch Escape From Extinction, available to rent or purchase on all VOD distribution platforms including FandangoNow, Google Play, iTunes and more!