Ruminal contents from 79 slaughtered bison and 2 ruminally cannulated bison were collected to obtain information on total numbers and species distribution of ciliated protozoa. The bison originated from numerous herds throughout the Great Plains and were grouped into three dietary categories: (i) only forage; (ii) forage with moderate levels of supplementation; and (iii) feedlot concentrate-silage diet. Total ciliate counts were highest in bison receiving grain supplementation (210.1 x 10(4)/g) and lowest in bison consuming only forage (27.1 x 10(4)/g). All protozoan species found in bison have been reported in domestic livestock, although Ophryoscolex sp., a relatively common protozoan in cattle, was detected at low concentrations in only eight bison. The uncommon holotrich Microcetus lappus was present in five bison in concentrations reaching 8.4% of the total ciliate population. Charonina ventriculi, another infrequently observed species, was present in 18 bison, with the highest concentrations in forage-fed animals. Thirty bison possessed a type B protozoan population, characterized by Epidinium sp., Eudiplodinium maggii, and Eudiplodinium bovis. Thirty-eight bison possessed a mixed A-B population, characterized by Polyplastron sp. coexisting with low numbers of Eudiplodinium maggii or Epidinium sp. or both. Thirteen bison possessed populations lacking any remnant type B ciliate species. At least 29 of the bison possessing Polyplastron sp. were known to have been in contact with cattle, whereas all bison isolated from cattle had type B populations. The reduction of type B populations in bison becomes increasingly likely as bison production expands into areas inhabited by domestic livestock.