Catalina Island Bison

How Did They Get To Catalina Island?

You might wonder how or why there are bison, also known as the American Buffalo, on Catalina Island. There are many stories about how they came to be but the most told tale is that they were brought over for the filming of one of Zane Grey's feature film in 1924, either The Vanishing American or The Thundering Herd. Fifteen head of bison were used to portray scenes of the American West. As the story goes, the parts of the film that contained the bison ended up on the editing room floor. However, with limited means to remove and wrangle the bison, Mr. William Wrigley, owner of Catalina Island, allowed the transplants to stay. 

Where do they roam?

88% of Catalina Island is protected through the Catalina Island Conservancy. This land trust was set up in the early 1970s and includes 62 miles of beaches and coves and over 165 miles of trails and roads, including the 38.5 mile Trans Catalina Trail which traverses the entire island. 

How many bison are on Catalina Island now? 

The Catalina Island Conservancy takes the responsibility of maintaining a healthy herd of no more than 150 individual bison. 

How do you see the bison?

You can see bison while driving, touring, hiking or biking within Catalina Island's interior. The Catalina Island Conservancy offers a Jeep EcoTour, the Catalina Island Company offers several tours that go into the interior including a specific Bison Tour and Catalina Island Adventure Tours offers several interior tours.

Bison can not come into the city of Avalon, but often do wander into Two Harbors and campgrounds in the interior. If you encounter a bison while hiking, camping or biking, please remember that they are free-roaming and undomesticated. They can act out if they feel threatened or provoked and interactions may cause serious injury. Exercise extreme caution.

How are bison celebrated on Catalina Island?

Enjoy a Buffalo Milk, pick up a stuffed bison or enjoy a bison burger on Catalina Island.

Is it a bison or a buffalo?

The animals on our island are American Bison. Buffalo are native to Africa and Asia, while bison are found in North America and Europe.

Bison Safety

The Catalina Island Conservancy offers a bison safety sheet to assist hikers, bikers and visitors to the island's interior areas.

  • Stay at least 100 ft away from any bison! Note: there is no guaranteed safe distance
  • They may appear docile, but can be defensive if they feel threatened.
  • Do not approach bison to take pictures or for any other reason. Your bison selfie isn’t worth your life!
  • Bison can weigh up to 1800 lbs and can run up to 35 mph.