Prepping the Prairie for Bison's Return

During the summer of 2013, staff at Nachusa Grasslands began the preparatory work necessary for the return of bison in the fall of 2014.

Sampling was conducted that will help researchers understand bison's affect on the prairie. Here, Kirsta Kirkham (L) and Maria Lemke take water samples and measurements of Wade Creek.

Researchers from Northern Illinois University collected samples of insects, which will help staff understand how the insect community changes with the return of bison.

Preserve Manager Bill Kleiman and Nachusa team members surveyed rare fringed orchid this summer.

Jeff Walk, Director of Science in Illinois, holds an ornate box turtle that was tracked on the prairie via a radio transmitter.

The bison corral will be located at this Holland Farm site. In preparation for their arrival, some of these building were demolished. The driveway was also built up with 15 truckloads of gravel! This is the "Before" shot ...

... And here is the "After!" Much of the equipment needed for bison will be housed in this part of the preserve.

Upgrades were also made to existing barns, sheds and other structures.

Almost all the barns at Holland were painted to an earth tone, which blends the buildings into the landscape much better than white. 

The Nachusa team traveled to Dunn Ranch, a Conservancy preserve in Missouri where bison roam, with a fencing contractor to draft a plan for Nachusa. Pipe was then shipped from Mississippi.

The pipe will replace traditional wooden posts and make the corral fire-proof, so the Nachusa team doesn’t have to spray down the corral during a prescribed fire.

Nachusa team members and volunteers spent several days cutting the pipe down to size.

A trackhoe digs a two-foot wide ditch that will allow for electricity and water lines at the new bison corral.

Once the ditch was complete, volunteers helped lay more than 600 feet of electric line and water pipe to the future bison corral site.

Northern dropseed, an important grass species, was harvested and spread across the acres where bison will roam next fall. A sign of restoration success: in the past, volunteers were only able to fill a bucket with northern dropseed. Today, they fill entire barrels!

Help support The Nature Conservancy in its efforts to bring bison back to the Nachusa Preserve. Visit to find out how you can get involved.


x animal

Sign up for Nature eNews!

Sign Up for Nature e-News

Learn about the places you love. Find out
how you can help.

Thank you for joining our online community!

We’ll be in touch soon with more Nature Conservancy news, updates and exciting stories.

Please leave this field empty

I'm already on the list!

Read our privacy policy.