Catalina bison will be celebrated on National Bison Day

Catalina Bison

For nearly a century, one of North America’s most iconic mammals has roamed Santa Catalina Island, bringing a sense of wonder and awe to visitors and residents alike.  North American bison roam the interior of Catalina Island, congregating in small herds and appearing in postcards, selfies and local lore.

Bison, also known as buffalo, once ruled the American Plains in herds of hundreds of thousands before being hunted nearly to extinction as part of the effort to tame the continent. In the 1920s, a small herd of about a dozen bison were brought to the island to appear as extras in a film. Rather than incur the expense of rounding them up and shipping them back to the mainland the animals were left here. Since then that small herd has grown, occasionally augmented by new stock from various herds on the mainland. Catalina bison numbers peaked at about 600, but now the Catalina Island Conservancy controls their numbers through birth control and the herd is about 150 strong.

Those Catalina bison – and their role in local culture – will be celebrated on the island as part of National Bison Day on Nov. 5. The Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce and the Catalina Island Conservancy are teaming up for a number of activities, including a photo contest on Instagram. Share your favorite bison image using the hashtag #CatalinaBison to enter. National Bison Day activities on Catalina Island also include a celebration of buffalo burgers, buffalo milk and more.