Gather your herd, and join the celebration of Oklahoma’s state animal, the American bison.
Hoof it to the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden on Sunday, November 7, to celebrate National Bison Day, presented locally by Bob Moore Subaru! This special animal awareness event, honoring America’s national mammal and Oklahoma’s state animal, will take place at the Zoo’s Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital plaza from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Guests will enjoy hands-on activities, education opportunities, an animal enrichment session, as well as Facebook Live chats and more. Event activities are free with Zoo admission and include:
- Kids activities with prizes: Event-goers will have the opportunity to learn more about bison with a scavenger hunt and bison chip toss activity.
- Photo opportunities, hosted by Bob Moore Subaru
- Conservation Education Station
- Opportunity to purchase the Zoo’s collectible bison Conservation Wristbands
- Facebook Live Chats: Tune in here, Facebook, for special livestreams at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
- Bison enrichment session at 11:30 a.m.
The OKC Zoo is home to three bison, Mary Ann, 20, Verbena, 2, and Yarrow, 2. Their habitat is located inside Oklahoma Trails, near the Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital. The American bison is the largest mammal in North America with an average weight of 1,000 pounds for females and 2,000 pounds for males, and standing at approximately 6.5 feet tall and 12.5 feet long. These horned mammals are a force of nature and can run up to 35 miles per hour. With a life expectancy of 10 to 20 years, adult bison are relatively safe from natural predators.
Just 200 years ago, there were over 30 million bison blanketing the United States. However, by the late 1800’s they were nearly hunted to extinction. The population was brought back from the brink when 15 bison from the New York Zoological Society (Bronx Zoo) were relocated to Cache, Oklahoma, in 1907. They were released into the first national bison preserve, which later became the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge. Descendants of this original herd still roam there today.
Bison are currently listed as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Designated as the official state animal in 1972, the American bison has a special place in Oklahomans’ hearts. The Zoo has committed itself to bison conservation through the support of its legacy partner, The Nature Conservancy in Oklahoma (TNC), an organization dedicated to conserving Oklahoma wildlife and open spaces. TNC manages 12 nature preserves in Oklahoma, covering nearly 100,000 acres, and encompassing much of the state’s diverse habitat for native species, including bison.
In 1993, The Nature Conservancy released 300 bison into the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie preserve in northwestern Oklahoma to help restore the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. The herd has grown over time and now ranges from 2,100 to 2,700 individuals.
The OKC Zoo has provided over $125,000 in financial support to TNC through funds generated by the Oklahoma Zoological Society and Round Up for Conservation Fund, a grassroots initiative that invites guests to round up their Zoo purchases to the nearest dollar and benefit the Zoo’s various conservation projects.
National Bison Day Facts
- Bison are North America's largest land animals.
- Bison are the Official State Animal of Oklahoma and the Official Mammal of the United States.
- The histories of bison and Native Americans are deeply connected.
- Zoos were one of the first conservation partners involved in saving the bison from extinction.
- Verbena and Yarrow, the Zoo’s younger bison are named after prairie flowers.
- Bison are an important part of a healthy prairie ecosystem.
- The bison’s hump is made up of muscle, not fat.
- By the late 1800’s less than 325 wild bison remained. As of today, there are 20,000-25,000.
- Bison can run up to 35 mph.
- Bison roll in dirt called wallowing to deter insects and help shed fur.
Have you herd? The Oklahoma City Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, excluding Christmas and Thanksgiving, with the last entry no later than 4 p.m. However, OKC ZOO SAFARI LIGHTS will be open in the evenings for both Thanksgiving and Christmas nights. Purchase advance tickets at okczoo.org/tickets and avoid the entry lines. Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the OKC Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Regular admission is $12 for adults and $9 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free.
Stay connected with the Zoo on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linktree and TikTok, and by visiting our blog stories. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by becoming a ZOOfriends member. Starting at $45, memberships can be purchased at ZOOfriends.org and provide access to the OKC Zoo for an entire year plus, additional benefits and discounts. To learn more about Zoo happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.