Houston Matters

Restoring and preserving bison — the ‘ghosts of our past’

Houston Matters looks at efforts to restore American bison to Texas, recovering them from near-extinction.

Photo of two American bison outdoors
Earl Nottingham/Texas Parks and Wildlife
American bison at Caprock Canyon State Park in the Texas Panhandle.

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The American bison, or buffalo, is the largest land mammal on the North American continent and used to exist in the millions across the present-day United States and Canada.

However, by the 19th-century the effects of colonization devastated the bison population and nearly brought them to extinction. Efforts by rancher Charles Goodnight in the mid-1800s to crossbreed cattle and bison was a major step in attempting to restore their numbers.

Now, further efforts to restore bison herds continue to take place across the country, including here in Texas. One such initiative comes from the Texas Tribal Buffalo Project, guided by members of the Lipan Apache people, including founder Lucille Contreras.

And in the Houston region, you can see a pair of bison on exhibit at the Armand Bayou Nature Center near Clear Lake. The center’s goal is to preserve the historic coastal prairie that spanned across the Gulf Coast region and provided a habitat for large bison herds in centuries past.

In the audio above, Houston Matters producer Joshua Zinn talks with Tim Pylate, executive director of the Armand Bayou Nature Center, and Contreras about why protecting bison is an important task.