One of Catalina’s most iconic species has been here for less than a century. American bison, commonly known as buffalo, were brought to the island in the early ‘20s for the making of a film. When the credits rolled the two dozen animals were left behind – both on the cutting room floor and on Santa Catalina’s temperate hills.
Unhindered by predators, the Catalina bison survived and their numbers grew, eventually reaching herds of 600 animals, a thundering mass of hoofed stock that was too much for the island to support. For many years, Catalina Conservancy staff regularly rounded up the animals and shipped many of them to mainland ranches and sanctuaries. In 2009, a less-intrusive solution was discovered and the majority of the cows were put on birth control.
Now, bison numbers are a more-sustainable, 150 or so. The dramatic animals can still be frequently seen in the interior, either on a tour, a hike or a trip to the Airport in the Sky.