The American bison lives in river valleys, prairies and plains. Its typical habitat is open or semi-open grasslands, sage shrublands, semi-arid lands, and shrublands. They also prefer lightly forested areas. The bison also graze in hilly or mountainous areas where the slopes are not steep.
While not particularly known as high altitude animals, the Yellowstone National Park herd is often found at elevations above 8,000 feet, and the Henry Mountains herd is found on the plains around the Henry Mountains, Utah, as well as in the valleys montanes of the Henry Mountains at an elevation of 10,000 feet.
The trails left by the bison were typically north and south, but several key east-west trails were later used as railroads. Some of these include the Cumberland Gap through the Blue Ridge Mountains to Northern Kentucky. A heavily used trail crossed the Ohio River at the Ohio Falls and headed west, crossing the Wabash River near Vincennes, Indiana.
Although the size of American bison is large enough to protect them from predators in most cases, in some areas the most vulnerable individuals are regularly preyed upon by wolves. Predation by wolves peaks in late winter, when wapiti migrate south and bison are slowed down by heavy snow and food shortages, with attacks usually concentrated on females and calves, or on weak or injured individuals.
Wolf packs that specialize in hunting bison tend to have more males, as their larger size relative to females allows them to bring down prey more effectively. Today, many conservation measures have been taken by various Native American tribes, with the Inter Tribal Bison Council being one of the most influential and significant.
It originated in 1990, and is made up of 56 tribes in 19 states. These tribes represent a collective herd of over 15,000 bison and focus on re-establishing herds on tribal lands in order to promote culture, revitalize spiritual solidarity, and restore ecosystems.
Some members of the Inter Tribal Bison Council argue that the economic value of the bison is one of the main factors driving its revival. Bison serve as a low-cost replacement for livestock and can weather winters in the Plains region much more easily than livestock.
Even the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, promoted the conservation of the American bison as an avid hunter.