America’s About to Get a National Mammal: The Bison

Congress appears poised this week to add the bison to the list of America’s official “things” when it votes to make the six-foot-tall, one-ton scale topper the national mammal.

House lawmakers are slated to vote tomorrow on the National Bison Legacy Act (H.R. 2908), which has nine Democratic and five Republican co-sponsors. Leading the charge for the bison is the 62-member Vote Bison Coalition, which includes Native American tribes, ranchers, wildlife conservationists, outdoorsmen, educators and zoos, among others.

“We believe the bison is the nation’s most culturally recognizable mammal, and as such, deserves recognition through designation and celebration,” the coalition says on its website. “The designation will raise the national profile of bison to the benefit of all stakeholders.”

resized bison

(Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg)

According to the group, there are an estimated 500,000 bison in the U.S. and 250,000 of the animal in Canada. There are herds of bison in all 50 states.

Just one animal—the bald eagle—currently has a national designation as the national emblem of the U.S., though numerous states have designated official insects, beverages, rocks, dances, flowers and fish, among other things.

The Senate passed its own version (S. 2032) of the bill in December.

“The bison, like the bald eagle, has for many years been a symbol of America for its strength, endurance and dignity, reflecting the pioneer spirit of our country,” Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who led the charge for the mammal’s designation, said after that vote. “It makes sense for this noble animal to serve as our national mammal."