Two and a half years ago, President Barack Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act making this vision of the American West an American icon. To me, this was a most fitting and long overdue honor.
The American Bison was hunted to the brink of extinction in the 1700s and 1800s with as few as 750 reported by 1890. President Teddy Roosevelt worked hard to preserve them and their numbers have since rebounded with about 500,000 now living on public and private lands.
It used to be we called these buffalo but that actually was incorrect. While they are part of the same family that includes the European and African buffalo, the Bison is its own, distinct species.
It is believed they were called buffalo by early North American explorers due to their resemblance to the Old-World species. Native Americans call them Tatanka, a Lakota word that translated means “bull buffalo.”
I am very fortunate to have a location nearby, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, where I can routinely photograph them, which is where this image was taken less than a month ago.