In Arizona, bison are found on two wildlife areas operated by the Game and Fish Department; Raymond, located east of Flagstaff, and House Rock, located east of the North Kaibab. Both wildlife areas are managed to provide viewing opportunities as well as recreation for sport hunters.
Bison, are the largest living member in the cow family. Adult weights range from 1,400 to 2,500 pounds for males and 750 to 1,600 pounds for females. Male bison have massive appearing front quarters with a large hump above the shoulders; these are covered with woolly hair up to 1.5 inches long that also covers the head and forelegs. This hair will turn tan with age and is two to five times thicker than hind quarter hair. The head has a broad triangular appearance with a beard. Calves are reddish-tan at birth and change to brown or black at three months. The hump and horns begin developing at six months age. Both males and females have horns. Male horns can reach 20" long. Female horns are always smaller. Smell and hearing is acute, while eyesight is poor. Adult bison can run sprints of 35 mph for up to 1/4 mile and they can run longer distances at slower speeds. Bison are also capable of jumping over 6 foot high fences without touching the fence. While bison may live as long as 28 years, few attain the age of 12 to 15 years. They are gregarious and can form large herd groups. Herd groups are unstable and group composition changes constantly. Herd groups are dominated by a matriarchal female, except during breeding.
Adult bison eat approximately 35 pounds per day. Although local variations in forage availability and preferences occur, they will shift toward the most abundant forage; eating grasses, forbs, and browse.
Public bison hunts have been held at House Rock Wildlife Area since the 1920s. These bison, which were originally brought to Arizona Charles Jesse "Buffalo" Jones, were sold to the state by Uncle Jimmie Owens after their "cattalo" experiment proved unsuccessful. When the number of bison was judged excessive for their Forest Service grazing lands in the mid- 1940s, the Arizona Game and Fish Department moved some of them to the agency's newly acquired Raymond Ranch (now called Raymond Wildlife Area). Other bison were moved to Fort Huachuca, which the Department acquired after World War II. The tenure of these latter animals was short, however, as they had to be disposed of when the Fort was reactivated in the 1950s. Some were sold and sent to the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, and the remainder were removed through a public hunt.
The herds at House Rock and Raymond Ranch wildlife areas remained, however, and the Department set out to manage these herds on a sustained basis. A economic profit proved elusive, however, as it was impossible to sustain sufficient breeding stock without damaging the range. Moreover, the shooting of bison being driven out of a corral, while making economic sense, became increasingly difficult to justify from a sociological perspective. As a result, both herds were drastically reduced in the early 1970s by hunters who had to take their animals in the field. The management of the bison herds is now more in line with the carrying capacity of their respective ranges, with between 45 and 65 bison being harvested each year. A special permit has always been required for the taking of this species.
Breeding occurs from mid-July to early September. Males are polygamous, but they do not form harems. During the rut, males may lose up 300 pounds. Most breeding is done by mature males five to eight years old. Gestation ranges from 270 to 285 days. Calves are born in the spring from late April through May. Twinning has not been documented. Nursing activity occurs primarily during daylight hours and each nursing bout can last up to 20 minutes.
Breeding Period: Mid-July to early September
Young Appear: Late April-May
Average Number of Young: 1
Distribution: Found on Game and Fish properties- Raymond Ranch and House Rock wildlife areas
Habitat: Grasslands of northern Arizona
Food Preference: Grasses and forbs
Live Weight: M-1,400-2,500lbs.; F-750-1,600lbs.
Predators: Mountain Lions attack calves; practically none for the adults