Bison Declared National Mammal of the US After President Obama Signs Bill

President Obama signs the National Bison Legacy Act into law.

ByABC News
May 9, 2016, 4:50 PM

— -- Move over bald eagles, the bison are coming for you.

While the bald eagle may be the national bird of the U.S., President Obama today officially made the bison the official mammal of the United States by signing the National Bison Legacy Act into law.

It is the first time the U.S. has designated a national mammal.

Here are some things you may want to know about the newly appointed mammal.

Bison Were Once Almost Extinct

Bison once roamed North America by the millions, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but by the 1800s they neared extinction. The decimation came from hunters in the 1800s going after them for their skins. In 1872 it is estimated that 5,000 bison were killed every day.

Today, according to the National Park Service, approximately 30,000 bison live in public and private herds in North America.

Former President Teddy Roosevelt paved the way for their conservation, according to the Department of the Interior. In 1905, he and William Hornaday formed the American Bison Society to help save the animal.

They Don’t Let Their Hump Slow Them Down

Bison are the largest land mammal in North America, weighing up to 2,000 pounds, according to the National Park Service. And they don’t let their weight slow them down. Bison can run up to 35 miles per hour, with the ability to pivot easily and quickly.

What is that hump about anyway? The National Park Service explains: “a bison’s massive hump is comprised of muscles supported by long vertebrae; this allows a bison to use its head as a snowplow in winter, swinging side to side to sweep aside the snow.”

They Are Already the Official Mammal for Three States

The bison has previously been adopted as the official mammal of Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming. The animal, also known as the American buffalo, also appears on two state flags -- Wyoming and Kansas.

It is also featured on the 1935 buffalo nickel and the Kansas and North Dakota state quarters. It is also the mascot for several sports teams and is on the seal for the U.S. Department of the Interior.