Reintroduction of Bison to Iowa: Herd Management

Broken Kettle Grassland animals will receive vaccinations, worming and blood tests at the Lame Johnny Creek Ranch round up prior to being transferred. Younger animals will receive identification ear tags. The 30 animals reintroduced at Broken Kettle Grasslands will be a maternal grouping.

Plans at Broken Kettle Grasslands call for an annual round up. Each year, keeper animals will be vaccinated for several bovine diseases and treated for external and internal parasites. All heifer calves will be vaccinated against brucellosis. Although there is no substantiated evidence of bison to cattle transmission of brucellosis, as a precaution, great pains will be taken to ensure the herd remains brucellosis free.

The herd will be released from the corral to the trap pasture within a few days of arrival. The herd will spend the winter months on a pasture of 200 acres. Depending on weather and pasture condition, the herd will be released to the open pasture of 500 acres in the spring. This way the herd has a gradual acclimation to their new surroundings and fencing. Once the herd is released into the open pasture, viewing sites will be set up for the public to observe the herd from a safe distance.

The herd initially will receive some supplemental feeding. Because the animals are in a restricted range, salt with trace minerals will also be provided. Water is available in creeks and ponds.

For research and record-keeping purposes, each individual bison in the herd is identified with an ear-tag transponder, or microchip. This tag is read by holding a wand near the animal's head; the wand transmits the tag's data to a portable computer. Each transponder transmits a unique number, which is then assigned to that particular animal. Some of the information tracked includes the animal's sex, origin, age, weight, pregnancy status and general health.

A continued regime of prescribed fire will help direct grazing and support the natural biological processes of the native prairie at Broken Kettle Grasslands.