“Bisonata”: the Lives and Times of Catalina’s Bison

Bison are an iconic species in North America. We know them also as buffalo or American bison. We see them on our nickels, in movies, postcards and even as statues around Avalon. We have restaurants named after them, and their likeness adorns many store windows and products.

For thousands of years, bison fed and clothed Native Americans, and are still sacred to many of them. During the 1800s, bison nearly disappeared from their native ranges in North America due to thoughtless killing but have reappeared through an aggressive protection program.

Like the bald eagle, a national symbol, the bison symbolizes wild America. Bison were introduced to Catalina Island in 1924 as “extras” in a silent movie called The Vanishing American, based on a novel by renowned Western author, Zane Grey, a resident of Avalon. After the filming was over, the bison were left behind.

Today, Catalina's bison are sought after as a popular photo opportunity for visitors into the Island’s interior.

The Conservancy manages Catalina's herd of 150-200 animals to guarantee their health and minimize their impact on native habitats, seeking a balance between their economic benefit to the Island community and the needs of the native plants and animals that share the Island with them.

This photo album follows bison around Catalina, from the time of their birth in late winter, through their teenage years, and on to adulthood. They are born, grow, mate, fight, compete and graze largely undisturbed by all the human activity that surrounds them, but always under the watchful eyes of the Conservancy managers who look after them.

Enjoy this month’s photo album.