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National Bison Range

National Bison Range

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The National Bison Range (NBR) is a National Wildlife Refuge
National Wildlife Refuge
National Wildlife Refuge is a designation for certain protected areas of the United States managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is the world's premiere system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife and plants...

 located in western Montana
Montana
Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

 established in 1908 to provide a sanctuary for the American bison
American Bison
The American bison , also commonly known as the American buffalo, is a North American species of bison that once roamed the grasslands of North America in massive herds...

. The NBR is one of the oldest National Wildlife Refuges in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. The size of the bison herd at the NBR is relatively small, numbering between 350 to 500 individuals. The initial herd of American bison
American Bison
The American bison , also commonly known as the American buffalo, is a North American species of bison that once roamed the grasslands of North America in massive herds...

 was provided by organizations including the American Bison Society
American Bison Society
The American Bison Society was founded in 1905 by pioneering conservationists and sportsmen including William T. Hornaday and Theodore Roosevelt to help save the bison from extinction and raise public awareness about the species....

, and today the refuge serves as the central point for bison research in the United States.

The NBR consists of approximately 18500 acre (28.91 sq mi; 74.87 km²) and is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Other nearby National Wildlife Refuges are managed as parts of the National Bison Range Complex
National Bison Range Complex
National Bison Range Complex includes the Lost Trail, Ninepipe, Pablo and the Swan River National Wildlife Refuges as well as the Northwest Montana Wetland Management District. All of the refuges and associated lands are managed from the National Bison Range by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, an...

 and include the Lost Trail
Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge
Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge is located in the U.S. state of Montana and consists of 7,885 acres . Established in 1999, it is one of the newest National Wildlife Refuges in the U.S. and is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior...

, Ninepipe
Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge
Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1921 and is located within the Flathead Indian Reservation 5 miles south of Ronan, Montana, United States...

, Pablo
Pablo National Wildlife Refuge
Pablo National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1921 and is located within the Flathead Indian Reservation 2 miles south of Polson, Montana, United States...

 and the Swan River National Wildlife Refuge
Swan River National Wildlife Refuge
The Swan River National Wildlife Refuge is located in the northwestern section of Montana in the United States. The refuge was primarily set aside to protect prime habitat for various species of birds and particularly waterfowl. The refuge does not have a permanent staff and is managed from the...

s. Also affiliated is the Northwest Montana Wetland Management District
Northwest Montana Wetland Management District
The Northwest Montana Wetland Management District is located in the U.S. state of Montana and is an integral part of the National Bison Range Complex along with four other wildlife refuges and the National Bison Range. The district comprises numerous small wetland environments set aside primarily...

.

Once believed to number in the tens of millions, bison once were found in all the current U.S. states except Hawaii and also throughout Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

. By 1890, bison were almost extinct, having been part of a Federal government sponsored program of eradication during the Indian Wars
Indian Wars
American Indian Wars is the name used in the United States to describe a series of conflicts between American settlers or the federal government and the native peoples of North America before and after the American Revolutionary War. The wars resulted from the arrival of European colonizers who...

, thereby removing a vital food source from the Plains Indians
Plains Indians
The Plains Indians are the Indigenous peoples who live on the plains and rolling hills of the Great Plains of North America. Their colorful equestrian culture and resistance to White domination have made the Plains Indians an archetype in literature and art for American Indians everywhere.Plains...

 diet, and ensuring easier relocation onto Indian reservation
Indian reservation
An American Indian reservation is an area of land managed by a Native American tribe under the United States Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs...

s. The bison was also considered to be a less desirable food source over domesticated cattle because of their wild nature, and were viewed as competition for prime grazing lands that could be used by cattle. By the beginning of the 20th century, efforts were made to attempt to preserve the remaining bison and protect areas in which they could reconstitute. Today, approximately 250,000 bison can be found on federal and state lands, as well as in privately owned herds. Bison has an average of 40% less fat content per pound over beef
Beef
Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially domestic cattle. Beef can be harvested from cows, bulls, heifers or steers. It is one of the principal meats used in the cuisine of the Middle East , Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Europe and the United States, and is also important in...

 and a higher protein
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

 content as well. Most of the private herds are used as a food source. Bison is gaining in popularity, and can often be found in grocery stores and restaurants.

The refuge provides a visitor center and two scenic roads that allow vehicular access to prime viewing areas. Elk
Elk
The Elk is the large deer, also called Cervus canadensis or wapiti, of North America and eastern Asia.Elk may also refer to:Other antlered mammals:...

 (wapiti), mule deer
Mule Deer
The mule deer is a deer indigenous to western North America. The Mule Deer gets its name from its large mule-like ears. There are believed to be several subspecies, including the black-tailed deer...

, bighorn sheep
Bighorn Sheep
The bighorn sheep is a species of sheep in North America named for its large horns. These horns can weigh up to , while the sheep themselves weigh up to . Recent genetic testing indicates that there are three distinct subspecies of Ovis canadensis, one of which is endangered: Ovis canadensis sierrae...

 and black bear
American black bear
The American black bear is a medium-sized bear native to North America. It is the continent's smallest and most common bear species. Black bears are omnivores, with their diets varying greatly depending on season and location. They typically live in largely forested areas, but do leave forests in...

 also live on the refuge along with over 200 bird species. The refuge is approximately one hour north of Missoula, Montana
Missoula, Montana
Missoula is a city located in western Montana and is the county seat of Missoula County. The 2010 Census put the population of Missoula at 66,788 and the population of Missoula County at 109,299. Missoula is the principal city of the Missoula Metropolitan Area...

 with signs off of U.S. Highway 93 directing visitors to the entrance at Moiese, Montana, and the refuge headquarters.

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