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NC Zoo's Prairie

The great prairies of the American midwest were once home to gigantic herds of bison. At the NC Zoo, experience our short-grass prairie complete with a herd of bison and elk that can be viewed from four overlooks.  


These large migratory mammals once traveled hundreds of miles in one season. Males weigh about 2000lbs and stand 6 feet tall, making them North America’s largest land animal. Bison, like cattle, are cud-chewers that have stomachs with many chambers. Bison digest native vegetation better than domestic livestock. Bison were an important source of food and material for Native Americans and this animal is deeply imbedded in their traditional culture. Every part of the animal was used, including meat, hide, hair, hooves, bones and organs. Bison are grazers that eat various grasses and vegetation, though they prefer short grasses. 

ElkAmerican Elk

Elk are large, hoofed mammals that inhabit woodland areas and open plains. Male elk are known for their unique high-pitched vocalizations and large antlers. Males vocalize or ‘bugle’ to attract female elk. Antler size is a good predictor of reproductive success. Stronger, healthier males typically have larger antlers while those that lack antlers altogether will not attract or keep a mate.

"I am an old woman now. The buffalo and the black-tailed deer are gone, and our Indian ways are almost gone. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I ever lived them." - Buffalo Bird Woman, Hidatsa Tribe, 1970