The bald eagle no longer the sole, reigning king of the critter kingdom.
The bison is now the national mammal in the United States after President Barack Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act into law Monday. The bald eagle remains top bird.
The act, which was introduced last year and passed unanimously by the House and Senate last month, highlights the “growing effort to celebrate and officially recognize the historical, cultural, and economic significance of the North American bison to the heritage of the United States.”
The move is entirely symbolic.
“This majestic animal joins the ranks of the Bald Eagle as the official symbol of our country — and much like the eagle, it’s one of the greatest conservation success stories of all time,” the Department of the Interior said.
Millions of bison once roamed North America, but overhunting, development and habitat destruction culled the numbers down to only a few hundred animals on the entire continent. But efforts to save the species, including a national conservation strategy, have brought the animals back from the edge of extinction.
Yellowstone National Park is the only place in the U.S. where bison have lived since prehistoric times.
The bison that live there are free of cattle genes, which were spliced into the species over the years in an effort to bring back the herd by breeding them with cattle.
As of July 2015, Yellowstone’s bison population was estimated at 4,900 — making it the largest bison population on public lands.There are perhaps 10,000 bison in the U.S. in 17 publicly-managed herds in 12 states.
Bison are certainly getting their due this year. The animal is also featured on a new stamp, part of the collection celebrating the National Park Service Centennial.
The image was taken by photographer, Art Wolfe, who got up early in the bitter cold to capture “a perfectly backlit bison standing on a small rise in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley.”
— US Dept of Interior (@Interior) May 9, 2016