The National Bison Range (NBR) is a National Wildlife Refuge located in western Montana established in 1908 to provide a sanctuary for the American bison. The NBR is one of the oldest National Wildlife Refuges in the United States. The size of the bison herd at the NBR is relatively small, numbering between 350 and 500 individuals. The refuge serves as the central point for bison research in the United States. A well-known white buffalo, “Whitey” (1933-1959, also called “Big Medicine”), spent his life at the Bison Range
Once believed to number in the tens of millions, bison once were found in all the current U.S. states, except Hawaii, and also throughout Canada. Bison were nearly extinct by 1890, having been part of a Federal government sponsored program of eradication during the Indian Wars, thereby removing a vital food source from the Plains Indians diet, and ensuring easier relocation onto Indian reservations.
Bison were also considered to be a less desirable food source than domesticated cattle because of their wild nature. They were also viewed as competition for prime grazing lands that could be used by cattle
By the beginning of the 20th century efforts were being made to preserve the remaining bison and protect areas in which they could reconstitute. Approximately 250,000 bison can be found on federal and state lands, and in privately owned herds.