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For information on Wisconsin's rare animals, contact:
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Black Buffalo (Ictiobus niger)



Black Buffalo (Ictiobus niger), listed as Threatened in Wisconsin, prefers strong currents of large rivers, sloughs, backwaters and impoundments. Spawning occurs from mid-May through mid-June.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Black Buffalo (Ictiobus niger). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Ictiobus niger in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusTHR
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

Note: a species guidance document is not available at this time. Information below was compiled from publication ER-091.

Identification: Slate colored or bronzy member of the sucker family, similar to the smallmouth (I. bubalus) and bigmouth (I. cyprinellus) buffalo. Adult black buffalo are more slender bodied and thicker headed. Blunt snout and broadly rounded body. Mouth small, ventral. Adult size: 16 inches (40cm).

Habitat: Prefer strong currents and fast riffles of large rivers. Also occupy sloughs, silty backwaters and impoundments. Has habits similar to the smallmouth buffalo, but are more often found in deeper water and stronger currents.

State Distribution: At the northern limit of range in the Mississippi River drainage basin, Wisconsin River and lower Pecatonica River. A map outlining Pre-1977 and 1997 to Present Distribution is available.

Phenology: Black and smallmouth buffalo are sometimes found together on shallow riffles, where fins and humped backs break the surface as they forage. Spawns from April to mid-June.

Diet: Black Buffalo eat mainly mollusks and insects, along with crayfish, duckweed, diatoms and bluegreen algae.

Management Guidelines: Reasons for decline are unknown. See summary fish management section.



Black Buffalo

Side view adult.

Photo by John Lyons, WDNR.

Black Buffalo

Side view adult.

Photo by John Lyons, WDNR.

Black Buffalo

Side view adult.

Photo by John Lyons, WDNR.

Black Buffalo

Close-up head.

Photo by John Lyons, WDNR.

Black Buffalo

Black buffalo.

Photo © Duane Raver.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Black Buffalo. Only natural communities for which Black Buffalo is "high" (score=3) or "moderate" (score=2) associated are shown. See the key to association scores for complete definitions. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Black Buffalo. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Black Buffalo occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

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Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

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Issues/threats and conservation actions

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for rare animals

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Last revised: Monday, November 18, 2019