James Couper shot the last known bison in Georgia circa 1800, near the Turtle River, a coastal waterway. Bison were extirpated from Kentucky in 1820, from Tennessee in 1823, and from West Virginia in 1825.
This was also the last bison known from the Atlantic Coast. Bison trails (or traces) remained visible for decades after their disappearance from the region.
The bison herds caused these trails to have a sunken denuded structure, and settlers used these hard-packed eroded trails as roads. The extirpation of bison in the south caused a profound loss of ecological diversity.
Bison maintained open areas by trampling, grazing, and eating acorns, thus reducing tree germination.
Studies show lightning strikes in the south are frequent enough to spark wildfires that can maintain grassy environments.
Lightning-induced fires created the longleaf pine savannahs that formerly predominated on the coastal plain for millions of years.
A complete skull with intact horns was found at Clark Quarry near Brunswick, Georgia in 2006. (A previous date on this specimen of 14,000 BP is considered in error.) Shortly after 24,000 BP, into extinction, including those that lived in southeastern North America, shaping the evolution of the surviving population of bison about 11,000 years ago.
This surviving population of bison grew to a smaller size, reaching sexual maturity at an earlier age than about 11,000 years ago, there is no certain fossil evidence of bison in southeastern North America until 1600 AD.
The Great Buffalo Lick in east central Georgia was covered in white clay-colored dung, and great pits were licked from the soil by large herds of bison.
Bison congregated around Big Bone Lick and Blue Licks in Kentucky for the mineral salts.
The fossil record shows bison were a common species in southeastern North America since about 240,000 years ago.
(Bison fossils were found at two sites in Florida thought to be 1.9 million years old, but the age of these specimens is in doubt, because they can’t be radiometrically dated, and there are no known American bison fossils dating between 1.9 million BP and 240,000 BP.) The oldest known American bison fossil, aside from the doubtful Florida specimens, is an ankle bone found at the Ten Mile Hill Beds in South Carolina, dating to ~240,000 BP.
European settlers over-hunted bison to extirpation in the south during the 18th century.