Bison Release in the News
Watch the story unfold in this riveting clip from Kansas City's NBC Action News.
"Grasslands are a part of our natural heritage."
- Randy Arndt
The bison are back! Grand River Grasslands Site Manager Randy Arndt is thrilled to hear the thunder of their hooves as a herd of newly reintroduction bison roam Dunn Ranch Prairie in northwest Missouri. Meanwhile, up on the Iowa-South Dakota border, Director of Stewardship Scott Moats got the chance to re-establish the social pecking order at the Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve.
The proper ratio of male, female, and juvenile bison is very important to the harmony of the herd. When a herd has too many bulls, the resulting behavior can lead to bullying or in some bison getting kicked out of the herd. To maintain the herd’s balance, some bulls must be relocated - but Iowa’s loss was Missouri’s gain.
Seven bulls from Broken Kettle were relocated to Dunn Ranch, as well as an additional 28 female and juvenile bison from the Conservancy’s Lame Johnny Creek Preserve. The bison’s presence on the prairie restores ecological processes that are integral components of natural grasslands.
“Unlike cattle that basically stand in one place and eat the grass down to the ground, bison roam the prairie,” says Scott. “They’ll cover the entire 500-acre pasture every day, eating the plants that are the most succulent that day. Randy and I won’t feed our herds any supplements as you might with cattle. They live off the prairie as bison did historically. The way they pick and choose plants brings more plant diversity to our prairie. Their movement tramples unwanted plants and helps to spread prairie flower seeds that are critical for rare butterflies.”
Temperate grasslands are the most endangered and least protected habitat type on Earth. Scott, who has been managing the Broken Kettle Preserve since 1996, is enthusiastic about the importance of bison on the property. “It tells me that our prairie is healthy and diverse enough to support our bison herd, to meet their demands in terms of forage abundance, availability, and quality. That’s really exciting.”
Randy and Scott have collectively spent several decades restoring grasslands to their original splendor. “Grasslands are a part of our natural heritage,” says Randy. “I have always felt connected to the prairie, and am thrilled that I am able to work to help restore the grasslands here at Dunn Ranch.” Recalling a story from when he was a fledgling biologist, Randy states, “I helped administer a prescribed fire to a small hay meadow that I noticed was much different from all the others I had seen. I discovered that it was a native prairie that had never been plowed. Once I saw how the prairie responded to the fire - the profusion of colorful native wildflowers that I had never seen before - I was hooked. That incident happened 33 years ago and I have been managing and restoring prairies every since.”
Broken Kettle Preserve and Dunn Ranch Prairie give visitors the opportunity to see what America looked like over a century ago. “I love the thought of restoring several thousand acres of prairie here at Dunn Ranch to emulate, at a very small scale, what once would have been seen in America’s heartland,” Randy says. “I love to look out over the rolling hills at Dunn Ranch, seeing bison grazing in the golden grasses, and trying to visualize what it must have been like at the time of Lewis and Clark.”