Broken Kettle Bison
Broken Kettle Bison Bison Transform Prairie Landscape for 10 Years © Dan Smith/TNC

Stories in Iowa

Broken Kettle Bison

Bison Transform Prairie Landscape for 10 Years

2018 bison calf at Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve
2018 Bison Calf Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve © Dan Smith/TNC

More than 150 years ago, bison were an integral part of the prairie system, vital in maintaining the diversity of prairie species including grasses, flowers, insects and birds. In the late 1800s, the bison population was decimated to near extinction. Decedents of one of the few protected herds were brought to The Nature Conservancy in Iowa’s Broken Kettle Grassland Preserve and have since worked to restore the tall grass prairie. 10 years was spent acquiring more land in Iowa’s Loess Hills region and developing an adequate fencing system for the herd. in 2018, The Conservancy welcomed 28 bison to graze the land. Today, the herd as grown to include more than 200 bison.

“10 years isn’t long in an ecological time frame, but there is no way I could envision Broken Kettle without bison on the landscape” said Scott Moats, Director of Stewardship for The Conservancy, “the bison are transforming the biological and ecological landscape.”

Natural habits of the bison, like grazing and wallowing, increase the biodiversity of the prairie from within. Their dense fur collects seeds for distribution and the wallows they create offer smaller animals a place to hydrate and nest. Our herd continues to benefit the prairie it roams.