Herd Behavior: Senate Backs Bison as National Mammal

The Senate passed Hoeven's legislation making the bison the national mammal. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate had a productive end to the week.  

The chamber unanimously passed bipartisan legislation designating the American bison as the country's national mammal. “The bison, like the bald eagle, has for many years been a symbol of America for its strength, endurance and dignity, reflecting the pioneer spirit of our country," North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven said in a statement Friday. New Mexico Democrat Martin Heinrich joined Hoeven in sponsoring the legislation, and in championing its passage on Thursday, he heralded the bison's importance to Native Americans.  

“Bison hold a rich historic and cultural significance for the United States, and in particular for our tribal nations,” Heinrich said."Recognition of our new national mammal will bring greater attention to the ongoing effort to conserve this unique species."  

In a release, the senators pointed out that North America was once home to 40 million bison, but the animal's population dwindled to fewer than 1,000 by the late 1800s. "The species is acknowledged as the first American conservation success story," the senators said, with public and private bison herds now in all 50 states.  

The Interior Department's seal features a bison, and three states — Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma — have already designated bison their state mammals, according to The Vote Bison campaign.  The group includes a range of coalition partners from a handful of zoos to the outdoor clothing company Patagonia and the Howard University Alumni Association.  

This isn't the Senate's first display of affection for the woolly creature. In 2014, the body unanimously designated Nov. 1 National Bison Day.