What Predators Hunt Bison?
Bison live primarily in the Western plains in the United States where there are a number of large predators including wolves and grizzly bears. Although there are several human threats to bison, such as hunters, this will examine the natural wildlife that preys in the area.
Predators in the Area
When most people think about predators, they think of wolf packs or big and scary animals. In some cases, maybe people even think of bison as a predator since they’re so large and intimidating. Bison are vegetarians and stick with a plant-based diet, so the idea that they’re a hunter is not correct. Due to their size, it’s unlikely predators would target bison, but some still try.
Wolves are very social animals that live in packs and hunt together and protect each other. A pack consists of a leader with subordinates who follow and act accordingly using howls or body language to communicate. These packs not only hunt but defend their territory together from invaders. Wolves mark their territory by howling or urinating in the area. Any large hoofed animals within their area, such as deer, elk, or bison, or even smaller animals are hunted by the pack. Typically, bison are not attacked by wolves as they are large and intimidating. However, if a youngling or calf is surrounded by a pack of wolves, its chances are drastically decreased. While a full-grown bison can typically defend itself, a younger, weaker bison is not as safe.
Cougars are not the big, cuddly cats you may have in your home. The cougar, also known as a mountain lion, is one of the top predators in Yellowstone National park. There are stories online of people feeling something watching them, then turning around to see a large, camouflage cat in a tree. Male cougars are extremely territorial and will kill or attack other males on their territory, though may overlap with females. Female cougars will kill their prey and return it back to their kittens who will not hunt until a year or so into their lifetime. For hunting, mountain lions have the ability to take down prey much larger than them. Much like your cat at home, they will stalk their prey, such as a squirrel or moose, and then pounce on the animal's back and kill it by biting their neck. Much like the wolves, cougars will attack younger or weaker bison, but will often avoid larger bison that can fend for themselves.
There are two types of bears that live where bison do: black bears and grizzly bears. The black bear is often less of a threat to humans or animals as they are not as aggressive as grizzly bears, but they still pose a threat to both humans and other animals. Grizzly bears are extremely large animals that can grow up to 6 ½ feet and are typically solitary animals. Their diet consists of meat and plants, and also sometimes eat human food. By eating human food, bears are conditioned to seek out humans, thus putting both humans and bears at risk. During the winter, bears hibernate in a cave or shelter to keep themselves warm. During the warmer seasons, bears will often pick apart carcasses left by other animals, however, they do often hunt other animals such as moose, elk, or bison. They will scavenge the carcasses of bison that have been killed while competing for a female bison’s attention. There have been some recorded attacks of grizzly bears trying to kill a young bison, though again, the younger bison are primarily hunted over the healthier, larger bison.
How Bison Stay Protected
Bison, in general, are not at the top of any predator’s list due to their size, herd, and muscle. It is true that animals typically go for the calves in the herd, but typically, the bison will band together to prevent attacks. In one instance, a grizzly bear was working to attack a calf that was already hurt when nine bison surrounded the calf to defend it. Bison’s impressive size and muscle already make them hard to contend with on any level, but when the bison herd stands together, they are certainly not easy to defeat. Bison seem only to be in severe danger when a calf is separated from the pack either due to weather, being hurt in some way, or being repeatedly attacked by many animals without stopping. The general consensus is that bison are fairly well protected and can fend for themselves. They protect their own and are extremely adept in protecting themselves, as well as their family.
Bison are truly magnificent creatures and are not excluded from predators. At JJ Bison, bison are protected by fences and do not face the aggressive animals that they may encounter further West. We, of course, do our best to protect them as they truly deserve.