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Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park
Fast Facts




Canyon Country
Yellowstone Nat'l Park
Wyoming 82190
Points of Interest Nearby

Yellowstone River, Hayden Valley


Photo by Alfredo De Simone

Hayden Valley may not be a geological hotspot nor particularly picturesque yet it is one of the top spots for viewing wildlife in Yellowstone National Park. This ancient lakebed blanketed with glacial till - tiny particles of clay, gravel and sand that do not drain water well - supports a variety of animals and birds. View waterfowl and waders in Hayden's low-lying wetlands. Spot river otters and observe busy beaver in the slow moving waters of the Yellowstone River. Watch elk, bison and moose as they forage for food in dry meadows and near water's edge. And if you're lucky, sight grizzly bear, bald eagle and coyote. Predators of the above. Hayden Valley - named after the American geologist, Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, whose 1871 survey led to the creation of America's first national park - is not easily overlooked.
American Bison Facts
American Bison in Hayden Valley

American Bison in Hayden Valley

Alfredo De Simone


There are lots of fun facts about the American bison. Did you known that?

  • Bison, ox-like in Greek, belong to the bovidae family just like cattle, buffalo, antelope, gazelles, sheep and goats.
  • The American bison, commonly known as the American buffalo, is not to be confused with its African (Cape Buffalo) and Asian (Water Buffalo) cousins. A large shoulder hump and thick winter coat are two things that distinguish a bison from a buffalo.
  • The bison is the largest land mammal in North America. Male bison, called bulls, stand 6 feet tall (1.8 m) and weigh 1 ton (907 kg). Cows, female bison, weigh only half as much but they are hefty beasts all the same.
  • American bison live in grassland habitats such as plains, prairies and river valleys and are grazers meaning they eat mainly grasses. Bison eat in the early morning and evening and chew their cud in between. In winter, Bison use their head and hooves to find food beneath the snow.
  • Adult bison have few natural predators. Their horns, strong hooves, large size and speed - Bison can run 35 mph - are effective weapons of self-defense against wolf packs and even bears.
  • American bison live, feed and move in herds like all other gregarious animals. The herds include cows and calves. Adult bulls are solitary animals and only join a herd during the mating season called the rut.
  • Bison once roamed North America from Canada to northern Mexico. Today, wild bison herds are found in national parks and refugees in only 6 U.S. states (Montana, Wyoming, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota) and 1 Canadian province (Northwest Territory).
  • The American bison, once numbering more than 60 million, were hunted to near extinction in the late 1800s. Bison hunters killed the American buffalo for their skins. Railroads allowed tourists to shoot bison from their trains. The U.S. government promoted the slaughter of the American symbol to strip Native Americans of their lifestyle.
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