Historic Distribution and Abundance of Bison in the Rocky Mountains of the United States


  • James A. A. Bailey 581 Antelope Ridge Rd., Belgrade, MT, 59714


bison, distribution, abundance, Rocky Mountains, Bison bison, historic distribution, Native Americans, intermountain valleys, Native American predation


Scant public awareness of the early distribution and abundance of bison (Bison bison) in the Rocky Mountains of the United States inhibits discussion of possible restoration of wild bison. A review of written evidence, largely from 1805-1845, indicates bison were widely distributed in intermountain valleys, with a major regional concentration spanning parts of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. However, several interacting factors caused large spatial and temporal variation in bison abundance. Native American predation was likely a major influence on bison distribution and abundance during and shortly before 1805-1845. The area where bison were observed by early explorers underestimates the area where restoring productive herds of wild bison is possible.






Biological Sciences - Terrestrial Ecosystems [Articles]